Giant 7-foot sunfish found on Oregon beach turns out to be newly discovered species

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A massive ocean oddity that washed up on a northern Oregon beach this week turned out to be a newly discovered species of sunfish, according to the local aquarium.

A 7.3-foot bluegill was found on Gearhart Beach, north of Seaside, Oregon, on June 3, according to the Seaside Aquarium.

“Initially, this large, strange-looking fish caused a lot of buzz on social media and despite the storm, people flocked to the beach to see this unusual fish,” the aquarium said on Facebook.

News of the large fish reached New Zealand, where researcher Marianne Nyegaard quickly identified the marine animal as a different species from the ocean sunfish, or Mola mola.

That’s because Nyegaard helped identify and name the deceptive sunfish, or Mola tecta.

His research naming the new species was published in 2017.

“Dubbed a new species hiding in plain sight, it was genetic sampling and eventual observation that contributed to its discovery,” the Seaside Aquarium said. “This fish, hidden in plain sight, has most likely been seen/washed up on shore before in the Pacific Northwest, but has been confused with the more common, Mola mola.”

A 7.3-foot bluegill was found on Gearhart Beach, north of Seaside, Oregon, according to the Seaside Aquarium.
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According to Britannica, the Mola tecta, or deceptive sunfish, can grow up to 7.9 feet long and is smaller than other members of the sunfish family, which can exceed 10 feet.

The fish has distinctive features including a ball-like shape, tough skin, and a small mouth with beak-like teeth.

The deceptive sunfish was initially thought to only inhabit the southern hemisphere, but these massive fish have recently been washing up on Pacific Ocean beaches in the United States.

“This fish, hidden in plain sight, has most likely been seen/washed up on the shores of the Pacific Northwest before, but has been confused with the more common Mola mola,” the Seaside Aquarium said.
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Monterey Bay divers photographed two tricked sunfish in 2019 — among the first confirmed sightings of the new species in Central California, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

After the latest sighting in Oregon, Nyegaard contacted the Seaside Aquarium to obtain a genetic sample.

The aquarium provided more photos, measurements and tissue samples.

Deceptive sunfish were initially thought to inhabit only the southern hemisphere. P.A.
The Mola tecta can grow up to 7.9 feet long and is smaller than other members of the sunfish family, according to reports.
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“Through photographs, Marianne confirmed that it was a deceptive and may be the largest specimen ever sampled,” the aquarium said.

Northern Oregon beachgoers can see this massive and rare fish in person for at least a few more weeks, as its tough skin makes it difficult for scavengers to puncture it.

“This is a remarkable fish and the aquarium encourages people to go see it for themselves,” Seaside Aquarium said.





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