Published: Mon, March 04, 2019

Hoodwinker sunfish: Rare fish washes up on California beach

Hoodwinker sunfish: Rare fish washes up on California beach

A massive, weird-looking fish washed up at UC Santa Barbara's Coal Oil Point Reserve in Southern California leaving experts baffled as this was the first time such a marine animal was spotted in the area.

In fact, when scientist Marianne Nyegaard wrote about her discovery and identification of the fish, she said, the "new species had been hiding in plain sight for centuries".

So, researchers were surprised when they found a dead hoodwinker on Sands Beach in Santa Barbara County on February 19, so far away from the fish's native swimming grounds in southeastern Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and perhaps Chile.

It's a hoodwinker sunfish, a species which is so rare, that it was first found just two years ago on a New Zealand beach, thousands of miles away from America.

Although research on sunfish (fish in the Mola genus) has gone on for decades, scientists formally named the newfound bony fish only in 2017, after a dead one washed ashore near Christchurch, New Zealand, Live Science previously reported.

"I literally, almost fell off my chair". The researchers first thought it was a similar and more common species of sunfish until someone posted photos on a nature site, CNN reported on Thursday. This specimen has been positively identified as Mola tecta, the hoodwinker sunfish!

"With the fish so far out of range, I was extremely reluctant to call it a hoodwinker without clear and unambiguous evidence of its identity", Nyegaard told the UC Santa Barbara Current, adding that she didn't want to be hoodwinked by a stranded sunfish. "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?". She then posted the pictures of her find on COPR's Facebook page.

"It's intriguing, what made this fish cross the equator".

A fish biologist commented and alerted Ralph Foster, a fish scientist and the fish curator at the South Australian Museum.

Seeing a seven-foot sea creature resting in its sandy grave is obviously a striking sight no matter what, but the incident became even more interesting when researchers revealed just how far the fish was from home.

Another close-up of the hoodwinker sunfish. Image sourceAfter several days of examination, the fish was identified as a Hoodwinker Sunfish, which is an extremely rare marine animal and was discovered in the year 2014.

Now, scientists have determined that this strange-looking creature is actually a species that has never been seen in North America before.

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