An ocean sunfish has been found washed up on the beach at Kimmeridge this morning and is possibly one of the first such strandings in Dorset.
Ocean sunfish*, Mola mola is the heaviest bony fish in the world, although the individual found at Kimmeridge was a juvenile measuring 12 inches long. The animals are very occasionally seen in Dorset during the summer months.
"A rare opportunity to have a really close look..."
The discovery was made by Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Marine Awareness Officer, Julie Hatcher. She said, “I was thrilled to discover this animal on the beach – this is the first time I have ever found one. Although I would rather see them alive in the sea it was a rare opportunity to have a really close look at what is a bizarre-looking fish.”
Little is known about ocean sunfish
Ocean sunfish are generally found in oceanic waters around the world although little is known about them. Occasionally they come inshore to feed on jellyfish, their staple diet, and those venturing into The Channel and North Sea during the summer may get caught out when the sea temperature drops in winter.
"This is was a very special find"
Julie added, “The disc-shaped body, very tall dorsal and anal fins and the lack of a tail make this an unmistakable fish. I knew immediately that this was a very special find.”
The scientific name Mola mola means millstone and refers to the shape of the fish. The English name sunfish derives from its habit of basking on its side at the surface, possibly to warm up after diving at depth, or to allow seabirds to remove irritating parasites from its skin.
The specimen has been collected to further research into the species by Queen’s University, Belfast.
Let us know about your marine sightings
The washed up ocean sunfish was also sighted by local resident, Donna Dean on 8th November and reported to DWT on twitter.
DWT would like to hear about your marine sightings in Dorset. Contact us on or @dorsetwildlife on Twitter or facebook/dorsetwildlife on Facebook. You can contact the DWT marine team on 01929 481044.
Notes to Editor
* The largest recorded sunfish is 4 metres, found in the Pacific.
For more information please contact Sally Welbourn at Dorset Wildlife Trust on 01305 264620.
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Dorset Wildlife Trust works to champion wildlife and natural places, to engage and inspire people and to promote sustainable living. Founded in 1961, DWT is now the largest voluntary nature conservation organisation in Dorset, with over 26,500 members and over 40 nature reserves. Most are open daily and there are visitor centres providing a wealth of wildlife information at Brooklands Farm, Lorton Meadows, Kingcombe Meadows and Brownsea Island Nature Reserves, The Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Urban Wildlife Centre at Upton Heath Nature Reserve. DWT plays a key role in dealing with local environmental issues and leads the way in establishing the practices of sustainable development and engaging new audiences in conservation, particularly in the urban areas.