Incredible Journey to Find Mysterious Sunfish Species – 9 Pictures + 1 Video

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The sunfish species is known as one of the most popular examples of bony fish. This group of fish is referred to as bony because their skeletons are mainly consisted of bone tissue instead of cartilage like in most fish. You have probably seen what a sunfish looks like before, and it is quite difficult to forget their strange shape. They kind of look like a frying pan with fins, so if you ever see something that could be described in a similar way, you're probably looking at one of the four species of sunfish.

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incredible journey to find the mysterious sunfish species 9 pictures 1 video 1

Their name actually has a lot to do with their shape. This type of fish dives deep into the ocean (more on that later), then swims back to the surface of the water and floats on the side in order to warm up on the sun as quickly as possible, so that it can dive back into cold depths of the ocean again. We all know what it means when a fish is floating on the surface of the water, but when it comes to this one, you can relax since it is just sunbathing.

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Although the sunfish or Mola has been well-known and documented for a long time, we had only been familiar with three species of Mola: Masturus lanceolatus, Mola mola and Mola ramsayi. All of that changed when in 2010 a student at Murdoch University in Australia, Marianne Nyegaard, started doing population studies on Mola or sunfish on her PhD studies. That's when her life turned into an adventure, as she says herself: “What began as something of a side project turned into a four-year treasure hunt, flying thousands of kilometers to track down evidence with the help of dozens of people.”

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Marianne Nyegaard started analyzing 150 DNA samples of sunfish as a part of her PhD research. Once she was finished with her analysis, she came to an interesting conclusion, that there is one species missing. Not to get too deep into the science stuff, her research simply indicated that there are four instead of three species of sunfish. Marianne decided to find the missing species and that's when her adventure began.

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Once she decided to go on a mission to find the missing species, all she had were skin samples with the DNA of yet to be discovered Mola tecta. First step she took on her quest was on the social media. Marianne started looking for pictures of the mysterious sunfish, since she had a vague idea what it might look like. Because all sunfish have similar characteristics, mainly their flat body shape and the fact that they don't have a tail, she started searching for something similar but still different from the other 3 species. Social media had another important role in this adventure, since she used it to build a network of people that would help her find the fish.

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