Ocean Sunfish Washes Ashore in Wellfleet Harbor

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Sue Wieber Nourse and Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola)

The Turtle Journal Team searched Chipman’s Cove in Wellfleet Harbor on Outer Cape Cod this morning for a reported ocean sunfish.  We received a call on our 24/7 hotline (508-274-5108) Monday from a part-time resident who had observed a large, strange fish that had washed ashore with the Hunter Moon tide on Saturday.  The observer said that he identified the critter as an ocean sunfish based on the photographic posting in the Turtle Journal.  Today, November 4th, marked the first time we had an opportunity to visit the site to confirm the identification and to see if this Mola mola had moved with the tides.  To quote Bob Prescott of Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, “Even though it’s dead, it keeps moving around.”

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6’1″ from Tip of Dorsal Fin to Tip of Anal Fin

Ocean sunfish represent the most massive bony fish in the world.  For more detailed information, you may wish to read Exotic Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) published on Turtle Journal last year at this time.  The specimen we found at the leading edge of today’s incoming flood tide measured more than a foot smaller in length and width than the several 7 footers we discovered last November.  Stretching the tape for a straight-line measurement from the tip of the dorsal fin to the tip of the anal fin, we recorded a width (or height) of 6 feet 1 inch.

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5’10.5″ from Snout to Clavus (Caudal Fin)

Measuring from tip of the snout to the trailing edge of the clavus or caudal fin, we got a length of 5 feet 10.5 inches.

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Pectoral Fin, Gill Slits, Sunken Eye and Mouth with Fused Teeth

From the state of the carcass, this ocean sunfish has been floating around the harbor for some time in water too warm to preserve it from rapid decomposition.


Ocean Sunfish off Lieutenant Island in Early October

If you follow the Turtle Journal Team adventures on Twitter (http://twitter.com/turtlejournal), you would have read of our discovery of an earlier ocean sunfish off Lieutenant Island on October 7th.  We posted a tweet and a cellphone picture (see above) of a badly decomposed Mola mola carcass off Plover Point (northwest corner of the island). 

Turtle Journal tweets live events from the field on Twitter to keep you aware of what’s happening on Cape Cod while it’s still happening.  You may wish to tune in to our tweets, especially during the sea turtle stranding season, which should begin with a fury during the next storm wave that strikes the Outer Cape.  Twitter affords you the chance to adventure out in the wild with us during the rawest, most dangerous conditions while still in the comfort and relative safety of your computer screen.

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Today’s Tweet of Ocean Sunfish from the Field

The Turtle Journal Team tweets (http://twitter.com/turtlejournal) live reports and quick snapshots from the field.  Turtle Journal posts (www.turtlejournal.com) detailed stories, high quality photographs and videos of the events.  Two ways you can join the Turtle Journal Team and our adventures.  The third and most important way you can participate is to call us through the hotline (508-274-5108) with sighting reports and rescue opportunities.  Only with a large cadre of partners with eyes and ears on nature from the SouthCoast to the tip of Cape Cod can we document what’s happening and continue to “save the world, one species at a time.”

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