Gloppy blobfish wins ugliest endangered animal

Photo courtesy of NOAA/Los Angeles Times

By Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times

The public has voted, and the sad-faced blobfish has been declared the ugliest endangered animal on the planet.

Some have said the gelatinous deep-sea dweller that can grow up to 12 inches long resembles a mini-Jabba the Hutt. We think it also looks like a gloppy version of the comic strip character Ziggy.

British comedian Paul Foot, who campaigned for the blobfish in a video posted to YouTube, said he saw a sadness and wisdom in the blobfish's face. "The eyes are kind, and very wise," he says in the video. "There is a brain in there."

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The blobfish lives off the coast of southeastern Australia and Tasmania at depths of 2,000 to 4,000 feet, according to Simon Watt, the biologist and journalist who organized the vote for the ugliest endangered animal.

In a scientific interlude that comes at the end of Foot's video plea, Watt says the blobfish's body is made of a gelatinous material that is just a bit more dense than water, allowing it to bob along in the deep sea without having to work hard to keep afloat.

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According to Watt, the blobfish eats crabs and lobsters, mostly by just opening its mouth and allowing food to float in. That diet puts it right in the way of the deep-sea nets cast by local fisherman.

Winning the ugliest endangered animal vote makes the blobfish the official mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. The "society" is really a touring comedy night that Watt put together, where science-minded comedians -- and a few comedy-minded scientists -- each champion an ugly endangered animal. At the end of the show, the audience votes on which ugly animal will be the mascot of their regional chapter.

At the end of the summer, Watt teamed up with the British National Science and Engineering Competition to put the show on the Internet, creating a YouTube page where viewers could watch 11 comedians describe 11 ugly and endangered animals, including the proboiscis monkey and the axolotl.

Votes were tallied according to which video got the most likes. But it was really no contest. The blobfish won hands down, Watt said.