A North Carolina museum is adding a 450-pound sunfish that washed ashore in November to its world-renowned collection.
A beachgoer discovered the sharptail mola sunfish at Seaview Pier at North Topsail Beach on Nov. 30. The person told the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries about the find, and the massive creature has since made its way to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
According to Lily Huges, the museum’s curator of ichthyology, the perfectly intact remains measure over 6 feet 8 inches from fin to fin. And staff had to borrow a horse scale from the College of Veterinary Medicine at NC State to weigh it.
The museum has curated more than 1.4 million fish specimens since it opened in 1879. And its collection includes parts of other molas. But in its nearly 250 years of existence, no one has brought in a sunfish quite like this.
“This one was perfect,” Hughes told Fox Weather. “It’s intact and in really good shape. You can see the whole fish rather than picked out by birds.”
A team is currently working through the preservation process, and the fish is being held in an 8-foot stock tank for the time being. Hughes admitted that the project has been a challenge. But in the end, the feat will be well worth it. It’s rare for museums to have a mola on display because they are so difficult to preserve and store.
“It definitely takes a village, but with a lot of help and a lot of enthusiasm, we’ve been able to move it around,” she continued. “But this one was in such beautiful condition. It just provided a really excellent opportunity to preserve and study this fish,” Hughes said.
The Largest Sunfish Ever Found Weighed More Than 6,000 Pounds
Locals are excited to see the final product when it’s finally unveiled. But Hughes warns that it will take some time to finish the process, so people need to be patient.
“We’re preserving it for research and education for a long time to come,” she shared. “We’re hoping people will be able to visit with it and learn more about it.”
The mola sunfish is one of the largest bony fishes known to exist on Earth. It lives in tropical and temperate oceans and can grow to be around 11 feet long. The massive creature eats a diet of zooplankton, algae, and small fishes.
There are five sunfish species in the world, and the heaviest specimen ever found was a bump-head sunfish, according to Guinness World Records. The deceased creature was discovered off Faial Island in the Azores, Portugal, exactly one year ago today (Dec. 9). And it put the NC find to shame by measuring 11 feet 9 inches and weighing a staggering 6,049 pounds.