New Giant Sunfish Species 'Hoodwinker' First To Be Discovered After More Than 100 Years


Researchers have discovered a new species of sunfish. The giant marine animal, dubbed Hoodwinker Sunfish (Mola tecta), swim in the ocean waters around New Zealand, off Tasmania, south-east coast of Australia, South Africa, and southern Chile.

New Sunfish Discovered In More Than A Century

The discovery marks the first time that researchers have discovered a new species of sunfish in about 130 years.

The discovery was made after the researchers examined 27 specimens of fish. They also looked at old photos and museum collections, as well as scoured for pictures of sunfish on social media to come up with a network of people who may alert them whenever a sunfish was observed.

In 2014, four sunfish were stranded in a New Zealand beach, giving researchers a good chance to study the animal.

Evaded Discovery For Nearly Three Centuries

Researchers said that the previously unknown species has evaded discovery for nearly three centuries. Japanese researchers found genetic evidence of this species in the waters of Australia a decade ago but the species had evaded earlier discovery because scientists were clueless what it looked like.

"The new species managed to evade discovery for nearly three centuries by 'hiding' in a messy history of sunfish taxonomy," said study researcher Marianne Nyegaard, from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University in Australia.

"We felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the Hoodwinker."

Features Of Sunfishes

The iconic ocean sunfishes are known as the heaviest and most distinctive of bony fishes. Just like the Mola mola and Mola ramsayi sunfish species, the new species is marked by a truncated appearance of half a fish. It has nonetheless distinct features that are different from the other two species of sunfish. For one, it has a slender and smooth body regardless of its larger size. The Hoodwinker also does not have a protruding snout or notable bumps and lumps.

Nyegaard and colleagues looked at texts that date as early as the 16th century to verify that their discovery was of a new species.

"A review of the historic literature revealed that Mola sp. C is a new, hitherto undescribed species, M. tecta, which we describe and diagnose, and that it is the first proposed addition to the genus Mola in 125 years," the researchers wrote in their study published on July 19 by the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

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