Beauty in Oceans Deep: The Blob Sculpin

By Patricia Ballelos
Published 2019 December 16 – From December 2019 Issue

In oceans deep amidst the somber quiet and high pressures of 480-2800 m, live fish that belong to the genus Psychrolutes (Froese and Pauly 2019). Genus Psychrolutes consists of around 11 known species that are mainly distributed in the depths of the Pacific and Atlantic ocean and intertidal zones of the North Pacific rim (Smithsonian 2019). Due to the high pressures, these animals have numerous physical adaptations. They have soft bones that are less prone to cracking and gelatinous flesh to stay afloat. Their flabby and deflated appearance when dragged closer to the surface due to immense change in pressure and their low muscle tone marks one of their unique characteristics (Keartes 2016). Out of all the species, most are familiar with what was deemed as the world’s ugliest fish-Psychrolutes marcidus, or the blobfish. Yet another species, Psychrolutes phrictus, or blob sculpin, is also worth noting being the largest member of the family.

This greyish fish covered in short and small filaments or tiny cirri, lives off the continental shelves in deep water of the North Pacific Ocean by the coasts of Japan, the Bering sea, California, and parts of Mexico (Froese and Pauly 2019; WORMS 2019). In terms of shape, the blob sculpin has a large head in comparison to its tadpole shaped body with short dorsal fins on its sides (Bray 2019). Through a diet of crustaceans, gastropods or mollusks, and sea pens, a blob sculpin can typically grow to a maximum length of 70 cm (Smithsonian 2019) as well as a weight of 11 kg (Dybas 2004). Being a sedentary animal, on its surface it is the host of small aquatic crustaceans known as copepods (Walter and Boxshall 2019). Primarily, these copepods include Chondracanthus yanezi and Neobrachiella amphipacifica (WORMS 2019). In 2003, it was observed that the blob sculpin was the first direct evidence of parental care when it came to oviparous deep sea fish, which lay eggs containing their young. Blob sculpins were found directly above or in close contact with their nests of large pinkish eggs (Cole 2010). Interestingly, it seems that the adults clean or fan their nests since their eggs appear free of sediment (Bright 2013).

At present, there are still more to be discovered about these creatures that will heighten our curiosity about our oceans. Although at times these deep-sea creatures have been ridiculed for their physique, it is those very characteristics and their nature that make them fascinating.


References

Bray DJ. 2019. [Internet). Blobfishes, Psychrolutidae. Australia: Fishes of Australia; [updated 2019; cited 2019 Oct 30]; Available from: http://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/family/333 

Bright M. 2015. The Shark that Walks on Land: And Other Strange But True Tales of Mysterious Sea Creatures. London: The Robson Press. 

Cole KS. 2010. Reproduction and Sexuality in Marine Fishes. California: University of California Press. 70-71. 

Dybas CL. 2004. Close Encounters of the Deep-Sea Kind. Bioscience (Internet]. [cited 2019 Oct 30]; 54(10):888-891. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/54/10/888/230198 

Froese R, Pauly D. [Internet]. 2019. Psychrolutes phrictus Stein & Bond 1978. FishBase.org; [updated 2019; cited 2019 Oct 30]. Available from: https://www.fishbase.se/summary/11732 

Keartes S. 2016 Oct 16. Blobfish might be a gooey mess out of water, but check out a living one! EarthTouch News Network. Smithsonian. [Internet]. 2019. Blob Sculpin. United States of America: Smithsonian – Ocean Find your Blue; [updated 2019; cited 2019 Oct 30]. Available from: https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/fish/blob-sculpin 

[WORMS] World Register of Marine Species. [Internet]. 2019. Belgium: Flanders Marine Institute. [updated 2019; cited 2019 Oct 30]. Available from: http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=274678 

Walter TC, Boxshall G. [Internet]. 2019. World of Copepods. World of Copepods Database: Marinespecies.org; [updated 2019; cited 2019 Oct 30]. Available from: http://www.marinespecies.org/copepoda/

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