Its grouchy face and slimy, gelatinous body have won the blobfish the honour of becoming the official mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, as well as the unofficial title of world’s ugliest animal.
First taking form as a science-themed comedy night, the society launched a campaign urging members of the public to vote for its mascot from a pool of ‘aesthetically challenged’ threatened species. The main aim of the campaign, which was run in conjunction with the National Science and Engineering Competition, was to draw attention to the threats facing these bizarre and often ignored creatures.
“Our traditional approach to conservation is egotistical,” said biologist and TV presenter Simon Watt, president of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. “We only protect the animals that we relate to because they’re cute, like pandas. If extinction threats are as bad as they seem, then focusing just on very charismatic megafauna is completely missing the point.”
The campaign featured eleven ‘ugly’ species, each of which was championed by a comedian and was promoted via a special YouTube video message before the public was asked to vote for their favourite. “I have nothing against pandas,” added Watt, “but they have their supporters. These species need help.”
Blobfish emerges victorious
After around 88,000 video views and more than 3,000 votes, the campaign came to its conclusion at the British Science Festival in Newcastle with the announcement of the blobfish as the winner. Supported by comedian Paul Foot, this species received a whopping 795 votes and will now become the official mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society.
“Some would describe it as a bit ugly, but I think the sad face of the blobfish belies a kind and very wise little brain in there,” said Foot of his chosen species.
A strange, gelatinous creature, the blobfish lives off the coast of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania, where it lives at depths of between 600 and 1,200 metres and is rarely seen. Incredibly, the blobfish is able to thrive at these depths, despite the pressure being several dozen times higher than at the surface. With its body being just slightly denser than water, the blobfish spends its life bobbing around in the ocean, feeding on crabs and lobsters. However, fishing trawlers pose a significant threat to this aesthetically challenged species, as it becomes caught up in their nets.
With an estimated 200 species going extinct each day, the Ugly Animal Preservation Society is keen to promote the conservation of less well known or less adored species, and Watt is pleased with the success of the campaign, saying, “We’ve needed an ugly face for endangered animals for a long time and I’ve been amazed by the public’s reaction.”
Watt also hopes that the attention given to these animals has brought a lighter side to conservation, and that it has highlighted the importance of habitat conservation.
Carly Waterman, from the Zoological Society of London’s EDGE of Existence programme which aims to highlight and conserve evolutionarily distinct, ‘one-of-a-kind’ species, praised the efforts of the campaign, saying, “A large proportion of the world’s biodiversity is being overlooked, so flying the flag for these species is a really positive thing.”
A whole host of fascinating creatures were in line for the title of world’s ugliest animal, including the flightless dung beetle, the European eel and the dromedary jumping-slug. In addition to the blobfish, the other four species in the top five following the public vote were the:
- kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot
- axolotl, a salamander that technically never grows up
- proboscis monkey, a primate with an over-sized nose
- Titicaca water frog, an amphibian with excessive amounts of skin.
Read more on this story at BBC News – Blobfish wins ugliest animal vote and The Guardian – Blobfish voted world’s ugliest animal.
Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author