In an internet poll, the blobfish was crowned "the world’s ugliest animal". The context was actually positive, by and large: an attempt to publicize the importance of protecting all animals, even the less photogenic, cute or typically beloved – and even those that we perceive as "ugly". Since then, the blobfish has become a cultural anti-hero, starring in countless memes, GIFs, videos, on t-shirts and stickers, and even in children's songs. The blobfish often symbolizes disgusting or pitiful ugliness, and has even been used as a mascot of accepting our bodies as they are.
But beyond the human arrogance of judging the beauty of other animals (relative to what? To us?), there is also another serious distortion in presenting the poor blobfish as the ugliest animal in the world. Because the horrifying form in which the blobfish is now known to most people is not the blobfish’s true form at all! More precisely, this is not the natural state of any known fish in the ocean.
Blobfish live at the extreme depths of 2,000 to 4,000 feet beneath the waves, and remarkably they can live for up to 100 years. Surprisingly, in their natural habitat they look quite similar to other fish, and definitely do not live up to their nicknames and the dubious honor of the “world’s ugliest animal”.
They are built to handle pressures 100 times higher than those we (and most other land animals) can handle. They can do this incredible feat because they have almost no muscles or bones, and most of their body is made of gelatinous tissue that is just slightly less dense than water. Not much is known about the real blobfish, but they have been photographed tending to their eggs:
They live a slow, peaceful life in the silent darkness of the ocean’s depths and feed mainly on "marine snow", matter that falls down to them from the waters above.
This tranquility is violently disturbed when a trawler fishing vessel catches and hauls the blobfish abruptly to the surface of the water. The extreme pressure change involved in this rapid increase in altitude causes the blobfish's body to literally explode.
The real ugliness, then, is not the blobfish, but the barbaric killing of this fish and the countless others struggling next to them on the deck of the trawler. So who is the truly ugly animal here?
What would we look like if we were dragged thousands of feet deep underwater without anything to protect us and keep us alive? We can only imagine. But it certainly gives a horrifying perspective to the images plastered across memes, jokes, and t-shirts of the pathetic anti-hero, "the world’s ugliest animal".
Maybe we really deserve the dubious honor of “the world’s ugliest animal”, as long as this is what we do to the other animals we share our planet with.
The bottom line
Are blobfish really the world’s ugliest animal? Definitely not. The image of the blobfish we have become used to is not the natural state of any animal – but that of a poor, dead creature whose body has been deformed beyond any recognition after being brutally removed from their natural habitat into an environment they are not built to survive in.
Add to this the now categoric scientific evidence that fish feel pain and it’s plain to see: The world’s ugliest animal is the human race, as long as we keep doing this, and as long as our trawlers keep decimating the oceans.