An expert noted that finding a dead sunfish on a Norfolk beach is “extremely important” to researchers looking at the largest bony fish in the world and possible linkages to climate change.
The young fish, about 1.5 meters (5 feet) long, was spotted last weekend on North Beach in Great Yarmouth.
The height and weight of an adult can reach 4 meters (13 feet).
According to Dr. Ben Garrod of the University of East Anglia, four have washed up in a year, but the cause was unknown.
According to the evolutionary biology professor and BBC science presenter, Sunfish are among the ocean’s oddest yet most identifiable fish.
The Mola Mola species, the biggest bony fish, often inhabit tropical and temperate seas.
On New Year’s Day, Katherine Hawkes took pictures of the Sunfish on the Norfolk beach and claimed initially she had no idea what she was looking at.
Then, even though Sunfish are rare at this time of year, she said, “I realised I had previously seen one swimming.”
Sunfish (Mola mola)
According to Dr. Garrod, this was “the largest we’ve seen… in the last few years” and was approximately 1.5m from top to bottom fin.
“It’s still a baby in comparison to the adults,” he added.
The UEA has investigated three of the four that have washed up on Norfolk beaches in the last 12 months, including the one that has just washed up.
Since we know so little about them, he said, “We don’t know why they died, and this is an ongoing research effort, but it’s really essential.”
“I know they wash up on the Norfolk shore maybe once every ten years,” the speaker replied, “but four in the previous year is fairly exceptional.”
No one disputes that the oceans are changing, but we lack the proof to link it to climate change.
The Zoological Society of London’s senior marine technical advisor, Prof. Heather Koldewey, concurred.
Singular that dead Sunfish had occasionally been spotted off the UK coast in previous winters, she noted, “it’s difficult to draw general inferences about climate change from a given criterion of a single fish.”
“However, as ocean temperatures fluctuate, we discover fluctuations in the ranges of different marine creatures.
Sunfish sightings have increased throughout the summer in the southwest of the UK, for instance, which may be more suggestive of changes in the climate.
‘A lost migrant.’
The Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s spokeswoman said: “Sunfish is such a rare species to witness here in Norfolk. They typically flourish in considerably warmer seas. Thus it is unusual for them to see along our coastline.
Despite this, many Sunfish have been observe recently along the Norfolk coast.
“The fish most likely ran into difficulties hunting jellyfish, their favored food source, in the substantially cooler waters of the North Sea.
The occurrence of rare species like Sunfish in Norfolk seems to be increasing, which may be related to climate change and warming oceans.
We search for patterns, and when the climate changes, we search for more widespread species. “A lost migratory like this one has reached the limits of what it can survive in,” said Rob Spray, a joint marine recorder for Norfolk. “The North Sea is an easily available pocket.
While it is always terrible to see an animal pass away, Dr. Garrod continued, “Having sunfish here is uncommon, thrilling, and very interesting.”