It was easy for scientists to have doubts when they were told that the carcass of a colossal fish had been found floating just off the coast of Faial Island in Portugal’s Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic Ocean in December 2021. This was because the Azores are an archipelago located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Faial Island is part of Portugal. After all, people have a propensity to embellish the truth when it comes to the size of fish. However, once they saw the fish in front of them, their doubts were immediately put to rest. They have never seen a bony fish of such a massive size before. In point of fact, it was maybe the largest instance of its kind that anyone had ever witnessed.
According to the researchers, the supersize southern sunfish, a kind of mola, was the heaviest bony fish that has ever been recorded. It weighed in at just over 6,000 pounds, which is roughly equivalent to the weight of a Chevrolet Suburban, and it measured more than 10 feet in length.
More than ninety percent of all fish have skeletons made of bone, placing them all within the category of bony fish. Because of this, sharks, rays, and other fish that have cartilaginous skeletons are distinguishable from these creatures. The size of the sunfish that can be found in the Azores is amazing, despite the fact that no bony fish has ever come close to reaching the size of a whale shark, which is the largest species of cartilaginous fish.
“It’s quite difficult to find huge fish these days owing to overfishing and habitat degradation,” said Kory Evans, a fish ecologist at Rice University who was not involved in the finding of the SUV-size sunfish. “It’s pretty rare to find big fish these days due to overfishing and habitat degradation.”
The largest bony fish ever recorded was a female of the same species that was collected in Japan in 1996. She weighed approximately 5,070 pounds and measured approximately 8.9 feet across.
José Nuno Gomes-Pereira, a marine biologist with Atlantic Naturalist and co-author of a study published this month in Journal of Fish Biology that documented the specimen, stated that the enormous southern sunfish that was discovered in the Azores is “not an abnormal individual whose extreme size is due to a genetic mutation.” The findings of the study were presented in a study that documented the specimen. “Members of this species have been known to reach this size. Just now, we were finally successful in weighing and measuring one. There are more instances of these monstrous beings in the wild.”
In addition to their massive size, molas are notorious for their awkward and uncoordinated swimming style. In contrast to the majority of fish, molas move through the water using only the dorsal and anal fins on their bodies, which allows them to do it in a manner that is both sluggish and erratic. Scientists believe that the open-ocean fish float on their sides at the surface of the water in order to warm up or to make it easier for seagulls to make a meal of the parasites that are found on their skin. This behavior is frequently observed.
A crew of researchers from the research NGO Atlantic Naturalist and the local marine wildlife authorities dragged the body of the southern sunfish into Horta Harbor and lifted it onto land using a forklift after local fisherman and boaters discovered it floating near the Azores.
The length of the fish, its weight, and the contents of its stomach were all measured over the course of several hours by Gomes-Pereira and his colleagues. The roughly 20 centimeters (8 inches) thick skin of the mola made dissection a very challenging task. In addition, due to the fish’s enormous size, it was unable to be preserved in any of the area’s museums, so it was buried on a nearby hillside.
Although the researchers were unable to determine the fish’s precise age, Gomes-Pereira is of the opinion that the animal must have been at least twenty years old. However, no one actually knows how long these animals can live. Estimates say that is approximately the limit of their life span, but no one knows for sure.
It’s possible that the life of this specific fish was cut short. Gomes-Pereira found a big bruise on the side of the animal’s skull as he was examining the fish. It is possible that the fish was struck by a boat because of this notice. The scientists are of the opinion that the boaters in the Azores need to slow down and be more conscious of the impact that they have on the marine life.
Gomes-Pereira also has the hope that the finding of this fish will encourage people to take additional steps to conserve the ocean by demonstrating to them that it is still possible for the ocean to maintain a level of health at which it can host the largest animals on the planet. He stated that this should serve as a caution to us regarding the necessity of implementing additional conservation measures.