“You Can Do Anything, As Long As It’s Nothing”: Ballad of the World’s Ugliest Creature
He drifts through the murky marine deeps, his gelatinous body undulating with the pressure of the sea. He is lighter than water, so there is no need to swim. He goes with the flow, and you could almost call his acquiescence elegant. Almost.
The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus, or Lethargian) is too ugly for elegance, and too idle for admiration. He just bobs along, swallowing hapless crustaceans that paddle too close to his mouth. He has no muscles, and his fins would be an afterthought, except that down here in the Doldrums, there is no thinking at all. “Laughing is against the law,” Norton Juster wrote, and “smiling is permitted only on alternate Thursdays.”
Despite his lack of qualities, the blobfish is enjoying his 15 minutes of fame (though you’d never know it from his expression.) He has just been crowned the world’s ugliest creature by The Ugly Animal Preservation Society, an organization “dedicated to raising the profile of some of Mother Nature’s more aesthetically challenged children.” In search of a mascot, the Society invited the public to vote for the ugliest animal, and the blobfish triumphed by almost 10,000 votes. His victory is quite a feat, considering the repulsiveness of his adversaries—like the frog whose Latin name translates to “aquatic scrotum” and the beetle that lives in elephant poop.
Though we cannot deny the Society’s good intentions, we must ask: Does the blobfish deserve to be preserved? After all, he bobbed onto the endangered list because he’s too lazy to avoid deep-sea trawling nets. Worse, he’s evil.
If you make your way down, down, down 1,200 meters below the ocean’s surface off the coast of Tasmania, Australia, and New Zealand, the blobfish will slip down your collar and slide around your ribs, serenading you in dulcet tones: “You can do anything, as long as it’s nothing. Everything as long as it isn’t anything. So, don’t say there’s nothing to do in the Doldrums.” As you drift to sleep, a wicked grin will ooze across his gelatinous face (only if it’s an alternate Thursday), and you, too, will be endangered.
Lara Ehrlich is a writer and editor in Boston. You can follower her on twitter @LaraEhrlich.