Bizarre Sunfish Species May Have Hidden Undiscovered for Three Centuries, Experts Say

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A sunfish that washed ashore in Christchurch, New Zealand, in May 2014 is dissected by Marianne Nyegaard.

(Murdoch University)

  • A new species of sunfish has been discovered in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • The fish has been discovered off the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, South Africa and Chile.
  • Named the hoodwinker sunfish, it’s part of a species that can weigh as much as 2,200 pounds.

Scientists have confirmed a massive fish that looks like a pancake is a new species of sunfish and may have been hiding unidentified for up to 300 years.

The large ocean sunfish was found in the Southern Hemisphere’s Indo-Pacific region during a four-year mission to learn more about the genetic differences in sunfish species, according to a press release from Murdoch University. The world’s largest bony fish, a sunfish can grow to weigh as much as 2,200 pounds and eats jellyfish in large numbers, Live Science said.

“The new species managed to evade discovery for nearly three centuries by ‘hiding’ in a messy history of sunfish taxonomy, partially because they are so difficult to preserve and study, even for natural history museums,” lead author Marianne Nyegaard said in the press release. “That is why we named it Mola tecta (the hoodwinker sunfish), derived from the Latin tectus, meaning disguised or hidden.”

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Since the big discovery, Nyegaard and her team have found this species of sunfish off the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, South Africa and Chile, National Geographic reported. Because they prefer solitude and living well below the ocean’s surface, it’s possible the hoodwinker sunfish has evaded humans for up to three centuries, Futurism said.

Nyegaard told Live Science it’s hard to know if the hoodwinker sunfish is endangered or if its population is healthy, but they continue to gather more information about the elusive species with every adventure.

“Now that we have a good handle on the new species, it can no longer hoodwink us to nearly the same degree,” Nyegaard told Live Science in an email.

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A square pink anthias is seen here. These fish are found as deep as 540 feet below the surface of tropical waters in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. They typically inhabit drop-off sand deepwater reefs, which are good examples of dimly lit places that are home to spectacularly colored species. (Dante Fenolio)

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