This Giant Sunfish Species Dodged Scientists For 300 Years

It's hard to imagine that such massive fish could spend the better part of three centuries eluding scientists, but that's exactly what happened. Known by some now as the Hoodwinker Sunfish, this giant sunfish species was first detected a decade ago by Japanese researchers, who found genetic evidence of its existence near Australia. With confirmation of its existence, this marks the first time the Mola genus has seen a new species addition in 130 years.

The giant sunfish has officially been named the Mola tecta, and its existence has been confirmed by Murdoch University PhD student Marianne Nyegaard, who spent four years seeking confirmation of the discovery. She first started her hunt for the fish after finding differing genetics from sunfish samples sourced in the New Zealand and Australian regions.

Thus began an effort to hunt down the source of the mystery, something that involved spending years gathering data on more than two dozen new species. The species has spent hundreds of years eluding scientists; talking about this to Phys, Nyegaard said:

The process we had to go through to confirm its new species status included consulting publications from as far back as the 1500s, some of which also included descriptions of mermen and fantastical sea monsters. 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.

The Mola tecta is said to be very similar to the Mola Mola fish (imaged above), as well as the Mola ramsayi species, though researchers say the Hoodwinker doesn't form bumps or big lumps as it gets bigger, nor does it get a characteristic protruding snout. There's still a lot to learn about the mysterious fish, but it is expected to get as massive as its Mola relatives — that is, up to a couple tons in weight and about 10ft in length.

SOURCE: Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society