Local NewsGiant sunfish found on Oregon beach draws crowd and researchers

Giant sunfish found on Oregon beach draws crowd and researchers

Giant sunfish
Giant sunfish
Images source: © Seaside Aquarium | Tiffany Boothe

6:17 PM EDT, June 19, 2024

Sunfish washed ashore always create a huge impression on beachgoers, but they are not always this large. A rare, enormous sunfish found on Gearhart Beach, Oregon, might be the largest specimen of its kind from which samples have been taken.

Live Science reports that Seaside Aquarium received information about an unusual, enormous fish found on the beach in Gearhart, a small town about 80 miles northwest of Portland. Initially, the discovery caused quite a stir on social media. Curious people gathered on the beach to see and photograph the unusual fish.

The largest sunfish ever seen

Shortly after that, news of the fish reached Marianne Nyegaard, a researcher living in New Zealand. The photos she saw suggested that it might not be an ordinary ocean sunfish (Mola mola), but another species she was very familiar with, the hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta).

Marianne Nyegaard contacted Seaside Aquarium to find out if the facility would be willing to take samples for genetic research. The staff quickly responded to the request, took more photos, and also sent measurements and tissue samples. The findings were surprising.

Ocean sunfish washed ashore on Gearhart Beach in Oregon
Ocean sunfish washed ashore on Gearhart Beach in Oregon© Seaside Aquarium | Tiffany Boothe

Thanks to the provided photographs, Marianne confirmed that it was a giant sunfish. The specimen washed ashore was about 7 feet long, making it likely the largest sample ever taken.

According to the American Museum of Natural History, all three species (Mola mola, Mola tecta, and Mola alexandrini) can grow up to about 11 feet in length and weigh up to 2.5 tons (5,000 pounds). Sunfish mainly feed at depths from 650 to 1,970 feet, where they eat jellyfish, small fish, and crustaceans.

Enormous sunfish available for visitors

Seaside Aquarium encourages people to come and see the extraordinary find. The sunfish is still on Gearhart Beach and may remain there for several days, possibly even weeks. The fish has such tough skin that other animals find it difficult to penetrate and consume the carcass.

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