A rare heavyweight that evaded fishing vessels and grew huge.

It was easy for scientists to have doubts when they were told that the carcass of colossal fish had been found floating just off the coast of Faial Island in Portugal's Azores archipelago in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean in December 2021.

People do tend to exaggerate about the size of the fish. But their skepticism lifted the moment they laid eyes on the fish, the biggest bony fish they had ever seen.

Weighing just over 6,000 pounds or 2,700 kilograms, which is around the weight of a big sport utility vehicle, the supersize southern sunfish stretched over 10 feet in length - more than three meters. Scientists say the fish, a species of mola, was the heaviest fish ever recorded.

Over 90 percent of fish have bony skeletons and thus fall into the category of bony fish. [No bony fish has ever come close to reaching the size of a whale shark, which is the largest fish with a cartilaginous skeleton.]

''It's pretty rare to find a big fish these days, due to overfishing and habitat degradation,'' said Kory Evans, a fish ecologist at Rice University in Texas who was not involved in the discovery of the big sunfish.

But its size isn't considered abnormal, said Jose Nuno Gomes-Pereira, a marine biologist with Atlantic Naturalist and co-author of a study published this month in the Journal of Fish Biology that documented the specimen.

''This species can get to this size. We just finally managed to weigh and measure one. There are more out of these monsters out there.'' [Annie Roth]


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