A large sea creature, measuring 7 feet (215 centimeters), recently washed ashore in Southern California and has been identified as a hoodwinker sunfish, a rare species usually found in the Southern Hemisphere. This discovery was made by an intern from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) at Sands Beach, within the university’s Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve. The intern notified a conservation specialist, Jessica Nielsen, who initially thought the fish was a local sunfish and shared photos on social media. This caught the attention of Thomas Turner, an associate professor at UCSB, who then shared the images with the iNaturalist community. Marianne Nyegaard, who identified and named the species in 2017, noticed the photos and discussed them with ichthyologist Ralph Foster.

Despite initial doubts due to unclear photos and the unexpected location of the fish, Nyegaard provided specific instructions for additional photographs and tissue samples. Turner and Nielsen located the fish, which had been moved by the tide, and took the necessary photos. Nyegaard confirmed the identification based on these clear images. Hoodwinker sunfish are characterized by their flat, oval shape and wing-like fins. The measured fish was slightly over 7 feet long and 227 centimeters wide from fin tip to fin tip, with a dorsal fin length of about 2.5 feet (75 centimeters). The weight was not recorded.