Conducted at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, New Hampshire
On Monday morning, I received a call from Steve Engstrom, Senior Aquarist at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye, NH. Steve informed me that a small ocean sunfish had stranded on the shores of the Science Center just the other day. He had heard that NECWA was interested in ocean sunfish sightings and strandings and so had tracked me down.
I was very excited to hear about this fish and made arrangements to drive up to Rye the next day and lead a necropsy with the help of the Science Center's staff and volunteers. And Leah, one of our long-term staff members, was going to assist with the necropsy as well. This would be Leah's second ocean sunfish dissection. Her first was last December 5th when we necropsied the largest ocean sunfish we had ever seen. This fish stranded on the shores of Mants Beach in Brewster MA. This recent fish in NH would be a stark contrast to the huge carcass we examined in 2010.
|Staff and volunteers looking on.|
|Steve and his son watching the proceedings.|
|Fun and wacky boots!|
It was clear that this was a small fish that could be picked up by 3 or 4 people. So we decided to load the fish in my truck and bring it to Seaport Seafood Market to have it weighed. The staff of Seaport Seafood Market were wonderful and really into this very unusual and stinky fish. The carcass weighed 170 pounds and this was very exciting since this is the first accurate weight we have collected from any of our carcasses.
|Weighing our ocean sunfish.|
|Jason collecting external body measurements.|
One of the Center's staff, Jason, was very interested in assisting with the necropsy in a hands-on manner. Jason has done many necropsies of seals and other marine wildlife, but never an ocean sunfish. Always great to work with someone who is really "into" the necropsies and who gets "into" the work at hand. And these fish really smell, especially after a few days on the shore.
|Measuring the girth of the animal.|
But when we flipped the animal over on its right side, we observed a series of propellor cuts along the dorsal surface of the animal as well as lower sections of the dorsal fin. Now it became more clear that a possible boat strike was the cause of this animal's demise. We then collected skin and muscle tissue for future genetic analysis and examined internal organs for parasites and injuries.
|Carcass now left side up.|
|Nematodes (roundworms) in the liver.|
|Measuring the length of the entire digestive tract.|
|Knife is pointing to the pharyngeal teeth of the ocean sunfish.|
|Pharyngeal teeth of the ocean sunfish|
|Ocean sunfish eye.|
|Gills of the ocean sunfish with parasites.|
|Collecting the vertebrae.|
|Marine food chain model.|