Massive Two-Ton Fish Discovered By Researchers

Posted: Jul 28 2017, 12:01am CDT | by , Updated: Jul 28 2017, 12:04am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Massive Two-Ton Fish Discovered by Researchers
Credit: Murdoch University

The newly-discovered fish species belongs to ocean sunfish, the largest bony fish in the world

A giant species of ocean sunfish has finally been discovered after hiding for centuries. It is the first of its kind to be located in 130 years and researchers have found it while searching the depths of Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Ocean sunfish are the largest bony fish in the world with some can grow up to 10 feet and weigh in excess of two tons. Named the Hoodwinker Sunfish or Mola tecta, the newly discovered species also has nearly the same size. Its name comes from the Latin word tectus, meaning hidden.

Despite their massive size, ocean sunfish are extremely rare. So, it took researchers four years of rigorous effort to find the new species.

"A Japanese research group first found genetic evidence of an unknown sunfish species in Australian waters 10 years ago, but the fish kept eluding the scientific community because we didn't know what it looked like," said lead researcher Marianne Nyegaard, a PhD student at Murdoch University.

“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. Early on, when I was asked if I would be bringing my own crane to receive a specimen, I knew I was in for a challenging – but awesome – adventure."

Researchers analyzed more than 150 sunfish DNA samples during their four-year research period and came up with four unique species. Three of them were later indentified but the fourth one did not match any previously documented species. Researchers do not know what the missing species might look like or where it might be hiding. It was not until 2014 that they finally got an idea about the fish after receiving images of a sunfish spotted by Observers from New Zealand and Australian fisheries.

The new sunfish’s body was almost flat except from fins and it does not have tail and snout like other sunfish species.

Researchers decided to travel themselves and to look for the Mola tecta in the beach in New Zealand.

“I flew down to Christchurch, landed at night and drove out on to the beach. I saw my first hoodwinker sunfish in the headlights of the car – it was incredibly exciting,” said Nyegaard.

“Sunfish aren't particularly rare, but it's tricky to study them as they simply live in parts of the ocean most humans don't go. They dive hundreds of meters to feed, and then rise to the surface to bask in the sun on their sides.”

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