Giant sunfish washes up on Australian beach: ‘I thought it was a shipwreck’

A rare giant sunfish has washed ashore at the mouth of the Murray River in South Australia.

Linette Grzelak posted a picture on Facebook of the sunfish, which was spotted by a couple of fishers on the beach at the weekend.

“My partner was out with his work crew and he thought it was a piece of shipwreck at first,” she told Guardian Australia.

This ocean sunfish (Mola mola) is a rare find for that location, said Ralph Foster, the fish collection manager at the South Australian Museum.

The sunfish, which he said was only medium-sized, had sand stuck in its scales, making it look as though it was made out of “paper mache”.

“I think a lot of people thought it was fake,” her partner said.

Sunfish generally eat jellyfish and are found in oceanic waters worldwide. They get their name from their habit of basking in the sun to warm up before they dive hundreds of metres beneath the ocean.

Foster said not a lot was known about the fish, and a new species was discovered only two years ago.

Foster said sunfish could do a lot of damage to yachts if they collided in open water.

One yacht in last year’s Sydney to Hobart race was forced to retire after hitting a sunfish and breaking its rudder.

Earlier this month a hoodwinker sunfish washed up on a beach in California, the first time the species had been sighted in the northern hemisphere in 130 years.

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