Deep sea monster alert

Australian Museum in Sydney – the oldest museum in Australia

I recently visited the Australian Museum in Sydney, and was lucky enough to spend some time down in the basement viewing a few of the permanent residents in the Icthyology and Mammal Collections. At one point I found myself in the midst of thousands upon thousands of fish specimens all swimming, or rather floating, in an ethyl-alcohol solution. No camera flash allowed down here, for obvious reasons! Another of my chance encounters, this time with a deep sea angler fish of the kind that pursued Nemo’s dad with a light and lure, not to mention enormous teeth. It’s a bit hard to make it out, so here’s an image of the real thing too. Deep sea monsters indeed!

Image sources: L: author; R: Monterey Bay Aquarium


Fathead (genus Psychrolutes) trawled during the NORFANZ expedition at a depth between 1013 m and 1340 m, on the Norfolk Ridge, north-west of New Zealand, June 2003 (AMS I.42771-001). . The scientists and crew on board the RV Tangaroa affectionately called this fish ‘Mr Blobby’. Note the parasitic copepod on Mr Blobby’s mouth. Photo by Kerryn Parkinson, Australian Museum.

I was also thrilled to meet a blobfish (Psychrolutes microporos) aka Mr Blobby, who gained international fame as the mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. He also features in a sculpture by Patricia Piccinini on display in the Australian National Gallery. In fact, the specimen was brought up from the deep sea off NW New Zealand during the NORFANZ expedition in 2003. Sadly, he looks little like the photo snapped on board the vessel shortly after he was retrieved from the trawl net. His impressive blobby mass has shrunk in the fixing process, and he is a somewhat diminutive specimen now, with receding eyes and no sign of that wonderful bulbous nose of old! Nevertheless, he is still impressive in the flesh – a reminder of the incredible world that exists in the depths of our Southern Hemisphere oceans.

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