Stumbling on a sunfish seven feet long while he was walking on a beach is already quite surprising.
But what researchers initially thought to be a common type of sunfish proved to be much rarer: a newly discovered species believed to be established almost entirely in the oceans of the southern hemisphere. It was in Santa Barbara, California – much further north than everyone expected to find it.
"I literally fell off my chair," said Marianne Nyegaard of Murdoch University in Australia. Nyegaard, a sunfish expert, discovered and described the Mola tecta sunfish – commonly called the sunfish sweatshirt – in 2017.
The most common Mola Mola The moon fish is known to swim in the Santa Barbara Channel. The flicker was found only in the southern hemisphere, with the exception of only one known example that failed in the Netherlands in 1889.
Thomas Turner, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, heard a colleague say last week about what they thought was a deceased. Mola Mola who had failed in the UCSB Coal Oil Point Reserve.
"I went there with my family, my four year old son and my wife, as soon as I came out of my job, just to check it out, because I wanted him to see a Mola Mola closely, "Turner told NPR.
He uploaded the photos of the animal on a website called iNaturalist, a site on which scientists and amateurs can post pictures of plants and animals that they observe, to help researchers to locate the species.
"It's the strangest fish I've ever seen," he says. The creature is huge, he adds, but "they're essentially disk-shaped, so they're flat and have completely lost their tails, they just have pointed fins that go up and down." that they use to flap their wings a bit like the wings of a bird ". Their faces have a "surprise expression all the time," he says. They dive into the depths of the ocean to feed, then rise to the surface to bask in the sun.
Ralph Foster, Fish Specialist at the South Australian Museum, saw Turner's message on iNaturalist and stated that he was perplexed. "For me, it looks like Mr. tecta," he writes. "It would be a hell of a ride for the books if it's really Mr. Tecta, I think."
He reported the post to Nyegaard, the scientist who discovered the cheater. She replied that it "superficially looks a lot like Mola tecta", although she needs to take a closer look at some parts of the fish to understand what it was about.
"After Marianne and Ralph had seen my photos, they were rather enthusiastic but hesitated to say it was a makeshift scooter, because, as far as we know, it does not appear anywhere nearby, it was never reported in the Americas, "said Turner.
He and his colleague Jessica Nielsen returned to the beach to try to find the fish, and found the fish stranded a few hundred meters from the beach. They took pictures, took tissue samples and a UCSB scientist dissected the dead animal.
Nyegaard's answer was immediate: "SAINT MOLA !!!" It was really a scintillating one. Although neither of the two types had a tail, she was able to see that this animal always had a "rear fold", leaving a flap-like structure, absent from the common type. Both species also have different types of scales.
"Eyes, ears and hands on the ground, on the other side of the world – wow," said Nyegaard in a statement to the UCSB.
Turner says she will test the tissue samples to see how closely they are related to the species examples found in Australia. "It is possible that we do not really understand the range of this fish as well as we think it because it has recently discovered it, or it is possible that they are sometimes only very away from their usual space, "he said.
Turner's work generally focuses on invertebrates such as insects. "I'm not a fish expert," he says. "What's really great about this story is that no one could have made the same discovery by posting on this site."