Rare Sunfish Found Washed Ashore on South Australian Beach
Image Source: National Parks South Australia Facebook Page
A huge fish was found washed ashore on the Australian Beach at Coorong National Park in South Australia.
Thinking it was driftwood, Steven Jones, a supervisor of a cockle fishing crew, along with his colleague Hunter Church found the fish near the mouth of the Murray River. It was later identified as the ocean sunfish or the Mola Mola. Unfortunately, there’s no way knowing the sunfish’s cause of death, CNN reported.
“He thought it was a piece of driftwood as they were driving past on the work truck,” Linette Grzelak, Jones’ partner and also the one who posted the pictures on Facebook, told CNN. “None of them had seen anything like this before.”
“They find all sorts of sea life along the beaches they dig but it has been mostly sharks and seals. This was something very different,” Grzelak added. “Steven said it was extremely heavy and its skin was leathery like a rhinoceros.”
According to the National Parks South Australia, these sunfish can become heavier than a car. It’s also known as the world’s largest bony fish. Only discovered two years ago, the sunfish eats jellyfish to survive and can grow to more than 6 feet. But in the case of the discovered Mola Mola on the beach, the South Australian Museum said it was “only” 1.8 meters long; hence, shorter than the usual size.
The sunfish has its own distinct features: it has a large, blunt head, a small mouth, and long dorsal and anal fins.
“The Mola mola is known for its large size, odd flattened body shape and fins,” the museum’s fish collection manager Ralph Foster told CNN via e-mail. He also said that he was able to identify the fish through the shape of its head and markings on the tail.
“It’s probably an average-sized one, they can get nearly twice as big as that,” Foster told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Another fact, Foster explained, is that the name sunfish came about because these fishes enjoy exposing itself to the sunlight, in other words sunbathing. However, this habit made sunfishes prone to boats hitting them. The big ones can even sink yachts.
“Researchers have been putting satellite tags and data loggers on these fish and found they will come to the surface and lay on their side on the surface, hence the name the sunfish,” Foster said. “Once they are warm enough they dive down several hundreds of meters and feed on jellyfish and stay down there for lengthy periods of time.”
“We know very little about them. It’s only in the last few years that technology has allowed us to start learning about them,” Foster added.
“The fish was thought to be a purely Southern Hemisphere species but just a couple of weeks ago one made the news when it turned up on a Californian beach, highlighting how little we know about sunfish in general.”