The seven-foot fish was swept away last week in the Coal Oil Point Reserve at the University of Santa Barbara in Southern California. Researchers initially thought it was a similar and more common species of crappie – until someone published photos on a natural site and experts intervened.
What happened after that surprised researchers from California to Australia and New Zealand.
It turned out to be a species never seen before in North America. This is what is called sunfish sweatshirt.
"When the clear images appeared, I thought there was no doubt about it – it's totally a glittering one," said Marianne Nyegaard, a sea scientist who has discovered the species in 2017. "I could not believe it, I almost fell off my chair."
How the scooter got its name
Nyegaard has spent years hunting for the wrinkling redfish before locating and naming the fish. All cases of large fish have been found in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile, she said. Except for once in the 1890s, when drawings and recordings documented the fish appearing in the Netherlands.
Scientists say there are five species of saltwaters, native to different places. One likes tropical waters, the other the subtropics and the windbreak prefers temperate waters, Nyegaard told CNN. She works in the marine division at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in New Zealand.
"That's why it's so intriguing to know why it happened in California," she said. "We know that there is a temperate distribution here and off the coast of Chile, but then how did it cross the equator and did it appear? It's intriguing what did that fish went through the equator. "
The antics of this capricious fish are comical, especially if one is based on the name of the species.
While she was doing research on the fish, Nyegaard realized that some rockfish species had been misidentified. One species considered rare was very common, while another fish considered common was poorly identified, she said.
"This had gone unnoticed because no one really realized that he looked different.There is a long history of confusion about the species in the family of the family. sunfish, "Nyegaard said. "This fish had managed to stay out of sight and in the shelter of everyone's attention." He had been mistaken for the mola mola (a fish-sun). ocean, so he made us all lose our heads. "
And what has been done to Californian researchers is a little misleading.
Scientists initially thought that it was another type of sunfish
A trainee from Coal Oil Point Reserve warned conservation specialist Jessica Nielsen on Feb. 19 about dead sea fish at sunset. When Nielsen saw it for the first time, the unusual characteristics of the fish caught his eye.
"It's certainly the most remarkable body I've seen washing on the beach for four years I'm on the reserve," said Nielsen in a press release from UC Santa Barbara.
She posted photos of the fish on the reserve's Facebook page. When his colleague Thomas Turner saw the photos later in the day, he rushed to the beach with his wife and young son.
Turner, an evolutionary biologist measuring six feet tall, reached out to show the scale of the fish seven feet long. He took pictures of what he thought was a sunfish from the ocean, a rare sight up close, he said.
"It's the most unusual fish you've ever seen," said Associate Professor of Santa Barbara UC. "He has no tail, all his teeth are fused, so he has no teeth, he just has that big round opening for a mouth."
A fish biologist commented and alerted Ralph Foster, fish specialist and fish curator at the South Australian Museum. In the comments on iNaturalist, Foster said for the first time that it was perhaps a cheatfish and not an oceanic redfish.
Turner was stunned, he said. "Discovering that it was perhaps the first record recorded in all the Americas and only the second disc recorded for the Northern Hemisphere for the present case, so I became very enthusiastic," he said. -he declares.
Foster sent an e-mail to Nyegaard, the woman who discovered the species, and told him what he thought.
"He sent me an e-mail with links and told me, do you think that's a scooter?" Nyegaard said. "But the pictures were not very clear.I was reluctant to settle for an ID because it was too far away."
Nyegaard and Foster asked to see more photos to make a more enlightened call.
Soon, they confirmed his true identity
It had been two days since Nielsen had not seen the fish. When Turner and Nielsen returned to the beach, the creature was no longer there.
They began to separate on the beach two miles away and kept looking, walking one towards the other until they found the fish gone. He had bailed out with the tide and had stranded a few hundred yards away, Turner said.
The pair looked for physical markers that are common in Red-nosed Rockfish.
According to Nyegaard, where a fish normally has a tail, the cheater only has a clavus, a structure that looks like a rudder. All sunfish have a clavus, but that of the cheater has a form of its own.
Her scale structure and the number of bone structures are also different from other species, she said.
All the characteristics of the photos are matched to the windbreaker. When Nyegaard saw the pictures, she realized she had a windproof case on her hands.
But how did he get there?
Nobody knows if this lonely fish has wandered far from home alone or is part of a chick population in North America that remains to be discovered.
Nyegaard said she wanted to compare a genetic sample of cheats found in California to her fish samples from Australia and her region.
"It's not uncommon for the sunfish to walk very far," Nyegaard said. "In the future, we will understand if this fish is regularly present off the coast of California or if it is an isolated case.
Nyegaard and Turner marveled at how social media and iNaturalist can help researchers find an answer.
"iNaturalist is brilliant because we can record observations and learn more about the distribution (of fish)," said Nyegaard. "We live in a changing world and it is important that scientists get the opinion of everyone because we can not be on the ground every day, anywhere in the world."
Turner said it was exciting for him to help identify the first recorded sighting of a glittering sunfish in North America – and only the second in the northern hemisphere.
"I'm a teacher, biologist but I did not really know what was special about this fish," said Turner. "I just posted a photo and it put me in touch with the world expert and the discoverer of the species."