Episode 157 – Blobfish: Blobby Fisher

“…and today we’re talking about a waterlogged football with eyes and a taste for shrimp. But more on that later.”

The blobfish might be the subject of cruel internet memes for many a year, but that digital ridicule may be unduly bestowed upon our deep-sea friend. He may look goofy, but that’s just because he’s far outside his natural habitat. Living at the bottom of the ocean, the blobfish actually has a pretty remarkable way of keeping it all together here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Blobfish

The blobfish are your typical fish shape with fin profile similar to a sea bass. Though the have more rounded fins. Their dorsal fins run down the length of their backs coming to a palm-shaped tail-fin. They also have broad elephant ear style pectoral fins.

Unlike a seabase, they have a large dome or bell-shaped head with a large mouth that’s positioned toward the bottom of their face. They also have large eyes that peer into the abyss of the sea, searching in vain for a scrap of light. 

They come in lighter pale colors like ashy grey to pale pink.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We do have a new Measure Up intro from Nora!

Length

  • 30 cm (12 in)
  • How many blobfish would it take to get from New Zealand’s South Island to the Antipodes Islands.
  • Hint: New Zealand is made up of more than 700 islands.
  • 1,848,000 blobfish. The Antipodes Islands are 350 miles from South Island.

Depth

  • 600 – 1,200 m (2,000 – 3,900 ft)
  • How many blobfish living depths go into the length of New Zealand along it’s north-north-east axis?
  • Hint: New Zealand is a long narrow country with two main islands. South Island has a spine of snow capped Alps that we’ve come to know and love in the Lord of the Rings. 
  • 1,346 blobfish. New Zealand is 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) long.

Fast Facts About the Blobfish

The blobfish troll the bottom of the ocean’s desolate rocky plains around the waters of Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania. 

The blobfish has the unique hunting style of sitting motionless while thinking about nothing at all. They’re covered in little protrusions that may help them look like coral or rocks and they just wait around pondering the same inquiries that a rock might. And just when the blobfish is about to forget it’s own existence to join the great multitude of ocean detritus, a piece of edible matter, usually in the form of a crustacean, sonters past its face and gets eaten. 

Another event that may disturb the blobfish’s dissociation might be an ocean trawling fishing vessel that catches the blobfish by mistake, though the acidic nature of blobfish flesh makes it unwanted bycatch for fishermen. 

The blobfish is thrown back, but not before the harsh lask or pressure of the surface turns them into that coveted ocean detritus. Now all that’s left is to sink to the sea floor, to feed the kin of the crabs the blobfish once zealously gobbled up. 

Major Fact: False Frumps

If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you’ve likely seen a picture of the blobfish. You’ve even likely seen a plush toy that looks like the blobfish. Good Mythical Morning called it the ugliest animal ever.

But the reality is that we don’t have any pictures of a blobfish in its natural state. This is because it lives almost 4,000 feet below the surface at 120 times the pressure at sea level. The only time we’ve ever really seen a blobfish is when they get caught in deep-sea fishermen’s nets and are brought to the surface.

Going from 120 atms to 1 does things to a living thing – what kind of things, you ask? Blob kinds of things.

Under Pressure

Living at such high pressures means that using a gas bladder for buoyancy like most fish wouldn’t be very effective. Instead, the blobfish’s body is made of a gelatinous material that is slightly less dense than the water around it. Rather than having a real skeleton, it uses the water around it as its own structural support.

Because of this, it can hover just above the ocean floor without having to swim. It doesn’t really have any muscle, so it’s pretty important that it doesn’t have to swim.

The side effect of this is that, while the water pressure keeps its jell-o body looking trim and slim like a normal-ish fish, not having that pressure means that the blobfish physically and mentally has a meltdown – making him look like a frumpy Jim Henson muppet.

Needless to say, all of the pictures we have of the blobfish are of dead blobfish that have basically meltploded.

On the flip side, this jelly body allows it to live and look like a regular fish in a place that would turn you into some sort of point of singularity.

Ending: So stay at your depth, keep your insides together, and have a cold bath like the blobfish here in LDT.

Episode 143 – Barreleye: The Spookiest Fish

“…and today we’re talking about a mysterious organic, deep-diving submarine. But more on that later.”

Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, there sits an alien monster fish that stares up straight through its own skull to spy prey: the barreleye. How does it do this? By being one of the weirdest creatures alive, even for deep-sea animals—and that’s saying something! But looking strange is just a fortunate side effect of being an empty-headed harbinger of jellyfish death from below here in LDT.

Episode 139 – Giant Manta Ray: A Focused Fish

“…and today we’re talking about a buccal pumping pup sucking histotroph in huge chunks. That sentence will only get grosser when you know what those words mean. But more on that later…”

Sometimes the biggest giants are the gentlest giants. But this gentle giant is also a genius giant. While the oceanic manta ray might not be smarter than a fifth-grader, it does use its brain in ways that would make other fish extremely sad and jealous if they had any feelings. In fact, it’s those feelings that make the manta ray a prime candidate for smartest swimming blanket. But when you’re the biggest fish in the pond, you can afford a little self-awareness here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.