What’s the World’s Ugliest Animal?

The votes are in—and the public has chosen the deep-sea blobfish to represent endangered ugly animals everywhere.

The sagging, gelatinous creature is the new mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, which draws attention to the need to conserve animals of all shapes and sizes.

blobfish picture
The blobfish, officially the ugliest animal. Photograph by Kerryn Parkinson, Caters/Zuma

Simon Watt, biologist and President for Life of the England-based society, organized the contest to raise awareness of endangered animals whose untraditional looks don’t garner as much attention as cuddly pandas and majestic tigers. (Also see World’s Ugliest Dog: The Evolution of Mugly’s Frightful Features.”)

Watt asked a group of 11 celebrities and comedians to film short videos promoting one creature as the world’s ugliest. Working in partnership with the U.K.’s National Science + Engineering Competition, the Society’s videos were viewed nearly a hundred thousand times, and thousands of people voted for their favorite ugly animal.

A proboscis monkey eats leaves in Borneo, Malaysia. Photograph by Thomas Marent, Minden Pictures/Corbis
A proboscis monkey eats leaves in Borneo, Malaysia. Photograph by Thomas Marent, Minden Pictures/Corbis

With 795 votes, the blobfish was declared the winner at the British Science Festival in Newcastle. Said Watt, “We’ve needed an ugly face for endangered animals for a long time, and I’ve been amazed by the public’s reaction. For too long the cute and fluffy animals have taken the limelight, but now the blobfish will be a voice for the mingers who always get forgotten.”

A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Blobfish, which live at depths of 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 meters) off the coast of Australia, are threatened by fishing trawlers that accidentally capture the fish in their nets.

They can grow up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) long and have no muscle, giving them a squishy appearance. But their buoyant, jelly-like flesh is perfect for their hunting strategy of  bobbing around in the deep sea and patiently waiting for something edible to swim by.

Rounding out the top five ugly creatures are:

  • The kakapo, a giant flightless parrot from New Zealand. The kakapo evolved on the isolated island with no predators. When people colonized New Zealand, they brought predators such as cats and rats with them. The slow, heavy birds were easy targets because of their lack of fearfulness, and now they are critically endangered. (Also see “Kakapo Coprolite Yields Conservation Clues.”)
  • The axolotl, a salamander that remains in its adolescent, aquatic form its entire life. It’s also known for its ability to regenerate lost limbs. Axolotls live in central Mexico, where they face threats from urbanization and water pollution.
The axolotl lives in Mexico. Photograph by John Cancalosi, Oxford Scientific/Getty Images
The axolotl lives in Mexico. Photograph by John Cancalosi, Oxford Scientific/Getty Images
  • The Titicaca water frog, found only in South America’s Lake Titicaca. Its folded, wrinkly skin allows it to take in oxygen underwater without needing to surface to breathe, and also inspired its nickname: the aquatic scrotum frog.
  • The proboscis monkey, named for its impressively protuberant nose. These primates also possess large pot bellies and are known to be bloated and flatulent due to their diet of unripe fruit and leaves.

They might not be classically attractive, but they’re all wondrous creatures in their own way. And every animal deserves attention and conservation, ugly or not.

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Mary Bates is a freelance science writer living in Boston. She has a PhD in psychology from Brown University where she studied bat echolocation. You can visit her website at www.marybateswriter.com and follow her on Twitter at @mebwriter.

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