September 15, 2013
Blobfish Wins World’s Ugliest Animal Award – And Much Needed Admirers
In this world of ‘likes’, upvotes and TV talent contests, it seems that even animals that live at 1200 meters below the surface of the sea are not safe from judgement.
The UK’s Ugly Animal Preservation Society, in partnership with the National Science + Engineering Competition, held a contest to decide what is the world’s ugliest animal. Celebrities backed their favorite aesthetically challenged creature and almost 100,000 people got involved, with the blobfish eventually winning by more than 10,000 votes.
But the competition has a noble purpose, and is more than just a Big Brother/American Idol watch-public-failure-for-entertainment type affair. So let’s hope the blobfish can continue to lead a quiet and dignified life instead of ending up a laughing stock and being snapped getting into a taxi with smeared make-up while flashing its underwear.
The contest hopes to highlight a problem within conservation – that cute and more charismatic animals get far more support in the effort to protect them from extinction than ugly animals do. Everybody wants to save the panda, but who wants to save the blobfish, or the creature merciless referred to as the scrotum frog (obviously whoever came up with that name wasn’t thinking about marketing).
Not only are these less handsome animals deserving of equality; they have fascinating elements to them, and are often unique in to certain environments and local regions, as well as having evolutionary and behavioural distinctiveness.
The scrotum frog, for example, lives only in Lake Titicaca in the Andes, around the border of Peru and Bolivia. It breathes through folds in its skin in order to aid lungs, which have a low capacity. It is also believed to do aerobics at the bottom of the water to increase the flow of oxygen, instead of just sitting about like the loafing panda.
Then there is the axolotl, a salamander but one that, unlike other salamanders, never develops the ability to breathe outside of water as it grows up. The most amazing thing about this creature is its ability to regrow limbs, and it has an incredible resistance to aging and cancer. It is only found in a small group of lakes in Mexico.
Joining the blobfish, the scrotum frog (more pleasantly known as the Titicaca water frog) and the axolotl was the kakapo; a huge parrot only found in New Zealand and the only parrot in the world which can’t fly. It is apparently a very kindly bird, allowing predators to eat it without much attempt to escape or resist. But nice guys never win, and inevitably this trait is not good for its chances of survival.
The last on the list was the proboscis monkey, perhaps more famous than some of the others and known for its massive nose. It is also rotund and very gassy due to eating unripe fruit. Local humans on its home, the island of Borneo, believe it looks like a sunburnt European.
As well as drawing attention to less fashionable species, the Ugly Animal Preservation Society hopes to make the point that it is environments and habitats that we should be protecting, not just specific species within them. The victorious blobfish is a victim of trawling just like many other sea creatures, while the axolotl suffers from pollution in its lakes as no doubt many other things do, even if they didn’t make the news.
Image Credit: Alan Riverstone McCulloch / Wikipedia