After staying hidden from the human eye for three centuries, scientists have uncloaked new species of elusive ocean sunfish, that could weigh up to two tonnes.
Marianne Nyegaard from Murdoch University in Australia who led the research uncovered the new species while researching the population genetics of ocean sunfish in the Indo-pacific region.
The previously undescribed species has been named the Hoodwinker Sunfish (Mola tecta).
Iconic ocean sunfishes are the heaviest and most distinctive of all bony fishes, with some species weighing in excess of two tonnes and growing to three metres in length and the newly discovered species is said to approach a similar size.
According to Nyegaard, “A Japanese research group first found genetic evidence of an unknown sunfish species in Australian waters 10 years ago, but the fish kept eluding the scientific community because we did not know what it looked like”.
“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”, Nyegaard said.
Over a three-year period data from 27 specimens of the new species was collected.
“We retraced the steps of early naturalists and taxonomists to understand how such a large fish could have evaded discovery all this time. Overall we felt science had been repeatedly tricked by this cheeky species, which is why we named it the Hoodwinker.”, she added.
The study was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.