December 16, 2013 | CMAST

Mola mola, or Ocean Sunfish

A Mola mola, or Ocean Sunfish, was stranded in Cedar Island, off Lola Drive, December 14, 2013.

On December 15, Dr. Vicky Thayer received a live stranding report of a “black dolphin or black whale” off Lola Drive in Cedar Island. The report was that it was “alive and dolphin-like.”

The Stranding Team mobilized in two vehicles, prepared for live-stranded cetacean such as Risso’s dolphin or perhaps a pilot whale. However, when the team arrived on the scene they found something unexpected – the animal was a Mola mola, commonly referred to as an Ocean Sunfish.

The Ocean Sunfish generally sticks to the open ocean, and this one was quite a distance away from even deep water. Though all options were carefully considered for rescuing the sunfish, it ultimately was euthanized at the stranding site.

The Stranding Team euthanized the Sunfish and brought it back to CMAST for future study.

The Stranding Team euthanized the Sunfish and brought it back to CMAST for future study.

In circumstances such as these, a euthanized animal is taken to CMAST on a stretcher where fluid samples are taken and carefully documented and preserved. Finally, the animal is placed into cold storage for a later necropsy to learn more about what may have led to its death. This may also give students a valuable opportunity to examine an animal first hand in great detail with which they have not previously had hands-on experience.

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