Hoodwinked: Sunfish washed up on Oregon shore is newly discovered species

Hoodwinker sunfish in a blue water (Nusa Lembongan, Bali, Indonesia)

GEARHART, Ore. — A massive, 2,000-pound fish washed up on the Oregon shore, but it was anything but an ordinary sunfish.

A marine biologist realized the image of the fish carcass posted by Seaside Aquarium was actually a rare hoodwinker sunfish, a different species than those typically found, The Washington Post reported.

It gets the name hoodwinker from the fact that the fish fools people. The common sunfish was identified in 1758 and named Mola mola, while this species was just recently found and named Mola tecta (tecta means hidden or covered).

Marine biologist Marianne Nyegaard wrote a paper about the hoodwinker in 2017, years after Japanese researchers found a genetically different version of a sunfish in 2009. So far, Nyegaard and her team have found 27 specimens of the hoodwinker sunfish.

“The new species managed to evade discovery for nearly three centuries by ‘hiding’ in a messy history of sunfish taxonomy,” she told the Post.

She thought they just lived in the southern hemisphere but they have been found in warm water flowing north, from California all the way to Alaska.

A hoodwinker was found on the California coast in 2019, The Associated Press reported. Experts at the Seaside Aquarium said on Facebook that more may have washed ashore but may have been confused with the common variation.

The fish found on June 3 on Gearhart Beach, north of Seaside, Oregon — which the Post described as “a bloated skipping stone with dead eyes and lipless mouth” — is also one of the largest hoodwinker sunfish ever found, measuring more than 7 feet long and 2,000 pounds.

You’ve heard of an ocean sunfish, but have you heard of the hoodwinker sunfish? On June 3rd a 7.3-foot (221cm)...

Posted by Seaside Aquarium on Thursday, June 6, 2024

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