A discovery four years in the making was recently made by scientists. After an intensive search, researchers have identified a new species of ocean sunfish. It is the first of its kind to be identified in 130 years.
Because of their elusive nature, the four-year search for this ocean giant was rather difficult. A team of researchers, led by Marianne Nyegaard, a PhD student at Murdoch University in Australia, analyzed over 150 sunfish DNA samples and found four distinct species from the samples. However, only three of these species had been previously cataloged. The researchers concluded that there must be a fourth sunfish species that was yet to be documented.
In 2014, a New Zealand fishery tipped off the researchers, telling them that four sunfish had washed up on a beach nearby, in Christchurch. When the researchers ran DNA tests on the fish, it was discovered that the fish were indeed part of this new species of sunfish. They differ from the other three species in that they have a slimmer body shape, and do not develop a snout, according to the team’s research paper.
Since this discovery, Nyegaard’s research team has located this new species of sunfish (dubbed the Hoodwinker Sunfish) in New Zealand, off the coast of Tasmania, as well as South Africa, southern Chile, and South Australia, suggesting that the fish hangs out in the colder waters of the Southern Hemisphere.