MAR 04, 2019 6:51 AM PST

Giant Fish Thought to Live in the Southern Hemisphere Washes Up in California

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Wildlife experts were both shocked and confused last week when a massive and unidentified fish measuring nearly seven feet in length had washed ashore at UC Santa Barbara’s Coal Oil Point Reserve. Fortunately, a closer examination of the specimen helped scientists identify it as Mola tecta, or more colloquially called the hoodwinker sunfish.

This is the hoodwinker sunfish that washed up in California last week.

Image Credit: Coal Oil Plant Reserve/Facebook

Albeit not uncommon for fish and other large marine animals to become stranded on beaches, researchers admit that it was indeed unusual to see a hoodwinker sunfish on one of California’s beaches. This species of sunfish is understood to live in the Earth’s Southern hemisphere, but the state of California resides somewhat far above the equator – thousands of miles North of where the species is thought to exist.

According to a statement released on Facebook by the Coal Oil Plant Reserve, the circumstances are exceptionally intriguing because this is the first official record of a hoodwinker sunfish being observed anywhere in the Northern hemisphere.

"When the clear pictures came through, I thought there was no doubt. This is totally a hoodwinker," explained Marianne Nyegaard, the marine scientist credited with discovering the species. "I couldn't believe it. I nearly fell out of my chair."

"We know it has the temperate distribution around here and off the coast of Chile, but then how did it cross the equator and turn up by you guys? It's intriguing what made this fish cross the equator."

Related: The stomach of a deceased sperm whale that washed up was full of plastic, scientists say

All other confirmed sightings of the hoodwinker sunfish purportedly transpired far below the equator; such as off the coast of Chile in South America and off the coast of New Zealand, just Southeast of Australia. Other species of sunfish are known to reside in other parts of the world, but they tend to stay within their comfort zones without wandering too far.

The reason why this particular hoodwinker sunfish meandered so far away from its purported home remains to be seen, but scientists are actively investigating the matter. It’s possible that the fish just got lost, but alternative explanations, including climate change-induced temperature shifts, may have more sinister implications about the unusual situation.

Related: Large groups of birds and fish take advantage of 'wakes' to save energy and avoid collisions

For now, scientists have collected biological samples of the washed-up hoodwinker sunfish in case anything similar ever happens again; this should make quicker work of identifying any mystery fish that wash up in the future.

Source: BBC, CNN, Coal Oil Plant Reserve

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
APR 28, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Evolution Observed in Fish in a Single Generation
APR 28, 2020
Evolution Observed in Fish in a Single Generation
In a five year study, scientists have now shown that stickleback fish were able to alter some of their traits within a s ...
MAY 15, 2020
Earth & The Environment
How breathable are our changing oceans?
MAY 15, 2020
How breathable are our changing oceans?
A study from researchers at the University of Washington examines the breathability of the California Current, the cool, ...
MAY 24, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
How CRISPR Can Aid in Wildlife Conservation
MAY 24, 2020
How CRISPR Can Aid in Wildlife Conservation
Since it was developed, researchers have modified and applied the CRISPR gene editing technology in many different ways.
MAY 25, 2020
Microbiology
The Symbiotic Bacteria That Stow Away in Ship-Destroying Clams
MAY 25, 2020
The Symbiotic Bacteria That Stow Away in Ship-Destroying Clams
Shipworms are known as the 'termites of the sea.' They are not actually worms; these infamous mollusks that have brought ...
JUN 14, 2020
Plants & Animals
Conservationists Begin Tracking Red Pandas with GPS Satellites
JUN 14, 2020
Conservationists Begin Tracking Red Pandas with GPS Satellites
The red panda (Ailurus fulgens) is one of several animals recognized as an endangered species on the International Union ...
JUL 23, 2020
Plants & Animals
Groups Led by Dominant Males Are Less Cooperative
JUL 23, 2020
Groups Led by Dominant Males Are Less Cooperative
When aggressive males led groups of fish in a complex task, those fish did poorly on the task compared to groups led by ...
Loading Comments...