Rare Giant Sunfish Washes Ashore In California


A rare hoodwinker sunfish was found in California, far from its typical home. It is the first time that the mysterious fish is seen in the Northern Hemisphere.

Mystery Fish

On Feb. 19, researchers discovered a mysterious 7-foot fish that had washed ashore at a beach in Santa Barbara, California. It was initially believed to be the body of an ocean sunfish as the species lives in the Santa Barbara Channel. As it turns out, however, the fish is much more mysterious than initially thought.

Thomas Turner of UC Santa Barbara’s Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology Department took his own photos of the creature and posted it in an online community for species identification. The post captured the attention of scientists from all over the world, including those in Australia.

Suspecting that the mystery fish might be the rare hoodwinker sunfish, Marianne Nyegaard who discovered and described the hoodwinker in 2017, and Ralph Foster of the South Australian Museum went to the beach to locate the fish themselves. They took their own photographs of the fish there and got samples for DNA identification.

Hoodwinker Sunfish In The Northern Hemisphere

Although the two scientists suspected that it was indeed a hoodwinker sunfish, the photos did not show some of the distinguishing features of the hoodwinker sunfish. What’s more, hoodwinker sunfish are typically found in the waters of southeastern Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Chile.

That said, the DNA results revealed that the creature was, indeed, a hoodwinker sunfish. This means the discovery is the very first time that the species has been observed in the Northern Hemisphere.

The hoodwinker sunfish was discovered in 2017, making it the first sunfish to be discovered in over 130 years. It can grow up to a maximum of 2.42 meters or 7.9 feet long and is believed to be widely distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. It is so named because it had eluded scientists for decades before it was discovered.

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