As CNN reports, how its true identity was found proved just as interesting. However, photos posted on the reserve's Facebook page soon began to draw national attention and eventually found their way to sunfish expert Marianne Nyegaard, of Murdoch University in Australia, said the reserve. This specimen has been positively identified as Mola tecta, the hoodwinker sunfish! But after a series of online posts and emails, and coordination with Marianne Nyegaard, the Australian sunfish expert who discovered the hoodwinker sunfish in 2017, the reserve was able to announce the first-ever discovery in a news release Wednesday in The Current. She turned to a number of specialists from the US, Australia and New Zealand for help investigating the dead fish.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR THOMAS TURNER, from University of California Santa Barbara.
They reportedly favour more temperate waters, such as off the coast of Chile or New Zealand.
"I just couldn't be sure due to pixilation and kept thinking I was totally being hoodwinked by this stranded sunfish", continued Nyegaard, who in fact named the hoodwinker for its elusive nature.
Ultimately, more information is needed to determine why the fish ended up on the Isla Vista beach.
Armed with specific instructions from Nyegaard what photographs and samples would be required to make a definitive ID, Turner and Nielsen waited for low tide. According to the reserve, the species is one of the heaviest bony fish in the world.
It was initially assumed to be a mola mola, an ocean sunfish known to swim in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Sunfish are massive, oddly shaped ocean creatures that can weight over 2,000 pounds. "I was reluctant to settle on an identification because it was so far out of range". "To discover that it may be the first record in all of the Americas and only the second Northern Hemisphere record for the species, then I got very excited", he said.
They walked from opposite ends of the beach and found it several hundred yards from its original position.
Where a fish normally has a tail, the hoodwinker only has a clavus - a structure that looks like a rudder, Nyegaard said. The two species also have different types of scales. "In the future, we will understand whether this fish occurs regularly off the coast of California or whether this is a one-off". "I'm not a fish expert", he says.