A group of marine biologists working off the shores of Faial Island in Portugal near the Azores region found the biggest sunfish ever recorded in world history.
The fish, which weighed 6,049 pounds – equivalent to 2,740 kilograms – was sadly dead, floating in the ocean waters. José Nuno Gomes-Pereira of the Cetacean Stranding Network, who also works with the Atlantic Naturalist Association, a nongovernmental organization whose main focus is on monitoring the oceans waters, was notified of the fish’s whereabouts. Gomes-Pereira and other biologists like himself help remove huge floating whale carcasses and other large dead fish to lower the dangers to humans that tend to come with decaying carcasses in the ocean’s waters.
The team managed to tow the fish ashore, requiring the help of a forklift to hang it up on a scale to get its exact weight. And what they discovered is that this particular fish, despite being dead, managed to break the Guinness World Record for the heaviest bony fish, with its weight.
The sunfish, which is also called a common “mola,” wasn’t just heavy, but managed to reach 10 feet in length, or 3.25 meters, in total. According to Gomes-Pereira, he explained in the Journal of Fish Biology that a discovery like this is actually “a sign of hope.”
He explained, “It means that the marine ecosystem is still healthy enough to sustain these large animals.”
The sunfish is recorded in the books as a bony fish, since their skeletons are made of bone not cartilage, which is a classification that doesn’t include rays and sharks. The scientists note that the difference between these fish and sharks and rays is that their skeletons are made of cartilage alone.
The mola happens to be an ocean-going fish with no known regional habitat aside from those outside of polar regions. But scientists are not exactly sure where they spend most of their time, or what conditions they need in order to breed positively.
Moreover, they are very unpredictable in the sense that they may appear any time throughout the year. But what is noticeable is the way they tilt their huge bodies horizontally in order to sunbathe. When they’re in this position, they can be spotted easily as well.
Marine biologist with the California Academy of Sciences and a National Geographic Explorer, Tierney Thys, shared, “I so love going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium because sometimes we have the sunfish shown on display in the million-gallon tank alongside the hammerheads and tuna. And then when the sunfish appears, people are just like, ‘Oh. Wow! Why?!’”
“It’s an animal that just begs so many more questions,” she added.
Thys wrote her very first academic book on the Molidae group, which is an aquatic group that included the giant or bump head sunfish. This is also the better known relative of the mola mola, or ocean sunfish like what they found. She also told National Geographic that this massive ocean sunfish is a “colossal reminder” of good things.
Thys said, “It’s a colossal reminder that our ocean still holds so many mysterious surprises.”
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