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Principale » Giant new sunfish species discovered on New Zealand beach

Giant new sunfish species discovered on New Zealand beach

24 Juillet 2017

Marianne Nyegaard from the School of Veterinary and Life Sciences and a group of global researchers discovered the species after studying the Indo-Pacific region for more than four years.

"That is why we named it Mola tecta (the Hoodwinker Sunfish), derived from the Latin tectus, meaning disguised or hidden".

'After four years of work, and the help of many people, it's great to be able to finally share the hoodwinker sunfish with the world!' Japanese researchers found genetic evidence of this species in the waters of Australia a decade ago but the species evaded earlier discovery because scientists were clueless what it looked like.

While they occasionally turn up in commercial fishing nets, fisherman rarely haul these stealthy giants on board due to their size. "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".

Observers from the Australian and New Zealand longline fishery were the first to provide direct evidence of its existence.

Ms Nyegaard suspects that, as with other sunfish species, feeding takes place during deep dives.

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In 2014, four sunfish were stranded in a New Zealand beach giving researchers a good chance to study the animal. After three years of extensive searching, confirming the existence of the species, her results were confirmed. When Nyegaard found out, she jumped on a flight from Perth to see the fish for herself.

Mola tecta remains sleek and slender even in larger sizes, differing from the other species by not developing a protruding snout, or huge lumps and bumps.

But the researchers hadn't finished piecing the puzzle together just yet.

She began searching, analyzing genetic differences in more than 150 samples of fish, called the word "Sunfish".

In a written statement, Ms Nyegaard added: 'The process we had to go through to confirm its new species status included consulting publications from as far back as the 1500s, some of which also included descriptions of mermen and fantastical sea monsters. While the old records included colourful descriptions of mermen, sea monsters and several invalid sunfish species, it was clear that the Hoodwinker sunfish had managed to slip away from the eyes of taxonomists for nearly three centuries.

"It's quite humbling to know that the ocean still holds so much mystery", Nyegaard told ScienceAlert.

Giant new sunfish species discovered on New Zealand beach