The larvae of the Bump-head sunfish (Mola alexandrini) have been identified for the first time and they are extremely tiny. And while tiny larvae are in no way shocking, these are because the Bump-head sunfish is one of the biggest bony fish in the world. Meaning these tiny fish babies ultimately grow into 10-foot-long behemoths that look like finned pancakes.
The above video exploring the Bump-head sunfish and the genetic identification of its micro-babies was posted by YouTuber, Science Laboratory. The video outlines the discovery, which was made by scientists in Australia and New Zealand. The team was led by sunfish expert Dr. Marianne Nyegaard at the Auckland War Museum.
Isn’t this the cutest fish you have ever seen? At only 2 mm in length, Australian and New Zealand scientists have recently answered the question: which species of Mola is it? @austmus @aucklandmuseumhttps://t.co/OyRppQyr5Q— AMRI (@AustmusResearch) July 22, 2020
Nyegaard et al. were able to match the Bump-head sunfish with its two-millimeter larvae thanks to genetic sequencing. Due to the size discrepancy between sunfish (which can ultimately weigh up to 4,400 pounds) and their first-born form, it’s been hard for scientists to pair different species with their appropriate larva. But with genetic sequencing, Nyegaard and her team were able match grown Bump-heads with their babies.
In order to perform the genetic sequencing, the scientists extracted DNA from a Bump-head larava’s eyeball. They then compared that DNA sample to others taken from various adult sunfish. And voilà, there was a match.
For those unfamiliar with sunfish, they belong to the family, Molidae, and are the largest bony fish in the world. Sunfishes swim in tropical oceans and temperate seas, and can be found the world over. Aside from their size, they’re notable for their incredible beauty. Just kidding, they’re notable because they have a rudder instead of a caudal fin and subsequently look like giant swimming heads.
“This is the first time we have been able to genetically identify a Mola alexandrini larval specimen….” Dr. Nygaard said in a Science Media Exchange press release. Nygaard added that she and her team will now compare this genetically identified Mola alexandrini with other specimens at the Australian Museum.
What do you think about the giant Bump-head sunfish and it’s diminutive larvae? And do you think sunfish look oddly sleek, or just downright goofy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Feature image: Science Laboratory