Number One… In Something

13 Sep

We might have lost the Ashes, as well as our cherished sports mojo in countless other arenas, and we even voted for a prime minister who favours budgie smugglers for beach attire… but at least we still have something to celebrate. The blobfish, rather unkindly described as resembling “a grumpy and obese old man with a bulbous nose”, has been voted the world’s ugliest animal.

More than 3,000 people took part in an online poll aimed at raising awareness of unsightly species that play a key role in the ecological system. Announcing the results, the British Science Association said it was a “light-hearted way to make people think about conservation”. The main “prize” is enshrinement as the mascot of the British-based Ugly Animal Preservation Society which, on its website, declares that it is “dedicated to raising the profile of some of Mother Nature’s more aesthetically challenged children. The panda gets too much attention.”

The blobfish, or Psychrolutes marcidus, lives in deep waters (up to 1,200 metres) off the mainland Australian and Tasmanian coasts, where the pressure is several dozen times higher than at sea level. The flesh of the blobfish is primarily a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than water, and this enables it to float above the sea floor without expending energy on swimming – while swallowing edible matter that floats in front of it. The problem is, however, that blobfish are often caught as by-catch in deep-ocean bottom trawling which, scientists fear, is threatening its existence.

The runner-up was the kakapo, a rare flightless owl-like parrot from New Zealand, and third was Mexico’s axolotl, an amphibian also known as the “walking fish”.

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