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Sunfish take a shine to Cornish coast

26 July 2006

A shoal of ocean sunfish, usually found in tropical waters, has been spotted off the coast in Cornwall.

An aerial survey of marine life in the area found 19 of the fish 'sunbathing' by floating on their sides - a favourite position that gave them their name.

Usually living in warmer oceans, this is the first time so many of the spectacular looking fish have been spotted together in British waters. It may be further evidence the ocean around the UK is warming up. The warmer temperatures have also been attracting jellyfish, a favourite food of the sunfish.

A surprise catch

Ocean sunfish, Mola mola , are one of the largest of all bony fishes and can weigh up to 1.5 tonnes. The curious looking fish have fascinated scientists for centuries and the mystery of their peculiar tail was resolved only recently by Natural History Museum fish expert, Ralf Britz and colleagues (link below).

'Although ocean sunfish are among the largest of all bony fishes,' said Britz, 'we still lack fundamental information on their biology. This recent sighting will hopefully give us the opportunity to find out more about these marvellous creatures.'

Researchers from the University of Exeter, the Marine Conservation Society and Cornwall Wildlife Trust carried out the marine survey.

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