A new species of enormous ocean sunfish was discovered after an intensive search, making it the first species of this type of fish to be identified in 130 years.
Despite being the largest bony fish in the world and weighing more than two tons, sunfish are quite elusive, which made the four-year search difficult.
A team of researchers led by Marianne Nyegaard, a PhD student at Murdoch University in Australia, analyzed more than 150 sunfish DNA samples and recognized four distinct species—but only three of the species had been previously identified.
This discovery led Nyegaard to believe that there was an additional sunfish species that hadn’t been documented, but she had no idea what it might look like or where it might be hiding.
The research team decided to call the species the hoodwinker sunfish, or Mola tecta, which comes from the Latin word tectus, meaning hidden.It wasn’t until a year after this breakthrough that Nyegaard was able to see a hoodwinker sunfish up close. In 2014, she got a tip from a New Zealand fishery that four sunfish had washed up on a beach in Christchurch, and she flew down to see the evidence for herself.
Researchers from universities all around the world then collected and analyzed specimens from the fish to prove it was indeed part of this new species, and they looked at how it was different from the other three species of sunfish.