The old man in the sea

blob-sculpin-psychrolutes-phrictus

This odd-looking Blob Sculpin (Psychrolutes phrictus) has a face reminiscent of a sad, old man. Blob sculpins are found in deep waters (2,750-9,000 feet deep) from Bering Sea to Southern California, and can grow up to nearly two feet in length (Eschmeyer et al. 1983). Many deep-sea fishes have gelatinous bodies with very little musculature. It may be that at such depths there is not enough oxygen and nutrients for fish to create dense muscle tissues. It may also be that pressure plays a factor. At 10,000 feet the pressure is roughly 4,400 pounds per square inch, much more than the 14.7 pounds per square inch of air we experience at sea level.

As with most shallow water sculpins, blob sculpins lay nests of eggs, which are then guarded. Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) have viewed dense groups of blob sculpin brooding nests of pink eggs at undersea plateau off the coast of Northern California (Drazen et al. 2003).

A related species the blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) has been called “the world’s ugliest fish”. This species is found in deep waters off the coast of Australia, and some scientists are concerned it may face extinction, since it is caught as bycatch by the lobster trawlers.

Photo source: NOAA