Explorers have been looking for a missing type of giant sunfish for over 130 years. Evidence has been found before, but the sunfish is a notoriously hard fish to find and preserve for study. But a team from Australia’s Murdoch University has found it at last, and they have named it the Hoodwinker Sunfish.
The Giant Sunfish, Massive and Stunning
Genetic evidence of an undiscovered sunfish was first detected off the coast of Australia by a Japanese research team. Since then, a doctoral student in veterinary sciences at Murdoch University, Marianne Nyegaard, has been searching for the elusive species.
“The fish kept eluding the scientific community because we didn’t know what it looked like,” she stated. “Finding these fish and storing specimens for studies is a logistical nightmare due to their elusive nature and enormous size, so sunfish research is difficult at the best of times.”
These massive sea beasts can grow to be as much as ten feet in length and weigh over two tons. However, they are extremely rare, and their bodies degrade quickly when they die. Nyegaard even requested a crane as part of the equipment for her research early on, as she knew retrieval of the species once found would be problematic.
Over a three year period, she collected more than 27 samples of the species, sometimes traveling thousands of miles on her expeditions. Nyegaard was sure that it would be a challenge, but she was also certain that it would be an adventure as well. It is the first species added to the Mola genus in over 130 years.
“That is why we named it Mola tecta (the Hoodwinker Sunfish),” Nyegaard stated, “derived from the Latin tectus, meaning disguised or hidden.”
The giant sunfish seems to prefer cold waters, as compared to its other Mola cousins. It appears to enjoy roaming the South Pacific from Australia to Chile and even South Africa.
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