Featured Image Credit: Cesar Villarroel via Sci News
By Sarah Sharkey
Ocean sunfishes are huge creatures that have been known to humans for quite a while, but a new species of the large fish was recently described. This description marks the first fish of its kind to be identified in over 130 years.
Sunfish are big, weighing in at more than two tons, you would think these fish would be easy to find. But it took a four year search for this new species to be found. A PhD student at Murdoch University in Australia, Marianne Nyegaard, led the charge to identify these distinct species of sunfish. After analyzing the DNA samples of over 150 sunfish, Nyegaard discovered that there were four species. Only three of these had been previously described.
This discovery through the DNA analysis led to an extensive search for the hoodwinker sunfish. It took a year to find the first hookwinker sunfish up close. Later in 2014, Nyegaard got a call about four sunfish that had washed ashore in New Zealand. Samples from these specimens were helpful in proving that this fourth species actually existed.
So what makes the hoodwinker sunfish different? It is sleeker and doesn’t develop bumps or a snout. After these beaching, Nyegaard has been able to find the hoodwinker sunfish in Tasmania, south Australia, South Africa and southern Chile. These findings may point to a range in colder waters, but more research will determine this.
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