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All about Blob Fish

Not many people see a bubble fish. That’s because they live in very deep water, almost at the bottom of the ocean. To put it bluntly, puffer fish are not very attractive. But the only people who actually get to see them are the fishermen who accidentally catch them in their nets when they sweep the ocean floor.

The blob fish, or Blob Sculpin, originated in the ocean off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania. Where they live, at about half a mile, the pressure is eighty times higher than at sea level. That means the gas bladders of most fish will not work for them. But this fish is actually a big mass of gel, kind of like looking at Jello (TM) but bigger and with eyes, nose and mouth. The fish is about two feet long.

Because it is all gel, this fish has a lower density than water. This allows you to float on the bottom of the sea without the need to swim. That’s good, because a puffer fish has no muscles at all. It looks like a large lump of jelly but has a triangular face with an expression that is like a scowl or a frown. Pufferfish feed simply by sitting in the water and waiting for something edible to arrive. It feeds mainly on sea urchins, mollusks and crustaceans.

Blob fish were first described in 1978, very recently in terms of fish identification. The first breeding bubblefish were discovered in 2000 in the Gorda Escarpment off the coast of California. The fish were in an area where other species of fish and octopus also reproduced. These fish were observed at several different locations and levels by a remotely operated vehicle, and have been studied every year since they were found.

When first seen, the puffer fish was monitoring nests that contained 9,000 to 108,000 pink eggs. All nests had hatchery fish sitting on or touching their eggs. Other nesting sites in more rugged territory appeared to be neglected, but the eggs were completely clean, which was thought to mean that the hatchery fish sat on the eggs or cleaned them frequently.

The dozens of bubble fish and their nests were quite close to each other. The eggs would be in neighboring rocks, sometimes with only one meter between families. None of the fish, with their eggs or not, showed any fear of the remote vehicle. Scientists are still trying to determine why such reproductive hot spots exist. At present, it is believed to have to do with cold seeps, which heat the water in these regions and provide a constant flow of food.

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