Setting a Remarkable Record: Unveiling the Enormous Sunfish that Rewrites History – A Colossal 6,000-Pound Giant Discovered Lifeless in Azores Waters
Researchers gather around the colossal 6,000-pound giant sunfish, discovered adrift on the ocean surface.
A monumental discovery has shattered records as a colossal, three-ton sunfish recently came to light near a Portuguese island, establishing a groundbreaking achievement in the world of marine biology, as unveiled by a recent study.
This scale-defying behemoth, known scientifically as a giant sunfish or bump-head sunfish (Mola alexandrini), was found on December 9, 2021, floating lifelessly off the coast of Faial Island in the Azores archipelago, nestled in the North Atlantic Ocean. Local authorities swiftly recovered the massive carcass, transporting it back to port to facilitate comprehensive study and analysis, according to a statement from the Atlantic Naturalist Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation and research based on Faial Island.
Researchers conducted a thorough necropsy on the giant sunfish, detailing their findings in a newly published study released on October 11 in the Journal of Fish Biology. The colossal fish stood approximately 12 feet (3.6 meters) tall and stretched about 11 feet (3.5 meters) in length, boasting an impressive weight of 6,049 pounds (2,744 kilograms), equivalent to around three tons (2.7 metric tons). Alongside physical examination, the scientists delved into the sunfish’s stomach contents and extracted samples of its DNA for further analysis, as stated in the official release.
This deceased fish stands as an awe-inspiring testament to its species, with study lead author José Nuno Gomes-Pereira, a marine biologist affiliated with the Atlantic Naturalist Association, expressing to Live Science via email that the images of its lifeless form hardly capture the true majesty it must have exhibited in its watery habitat.
The previous world record for the heaviest body fish was held by another giant sunfish, captured in Japan in 1996, weighing around 5,070 pounds (2,300 kg), as validated by Guinness World Records.
Researchers employ a mechanical winch to hoist the massive sunfish. (Image credit: Atlantic Naturalist Association)
Sunfish earn their moniker not due to their circular body shape, but because they luxuriate in the sunlight at the ocean’s surface, a behavior believed to aid in reheating themselves following lengthy dives into frigid, dark waters during their search for sustenance, as highlighted in the statement.
Giant sunfish have previously been misclassified as unusually large individuals of the more common ocean sunfish (Mola mola), which grow to roughly half the size of the recently discovered behemoth. M. alexandrini was formally recognized as a distinct species in 2018, thanks to a study published in the journal Ichthyological Research.
In a separate instance, Cambodian fishermen reeled in the heavyweight champion of freshwater fish in June, a colossal 13-foot-long (4 meters) giant freshwater stingray (Urogy’mnus polylepis) boasting an impressive weight of 661 pounds (300 kg).