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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Summer sun brings sunfish shoal
Ocean sunfish: copyright Janet Baxter
Sunfish were spotted for the first time by the surveyors
Giant ocean sunfish have been spotted off the Cornish coast in a survey of marine life.

Nineteen sunfish, generally thought to be a warm-water species, were spotted off the south-western tip of Cornwall.

Sunfish feed mainly on jellyfish and are thought to be following anticipated jellyfish blooms as the summer sea temperatures rise.

The same survey, carried out last Thursday, also detected basking sharks, porpoises, seals and jellyfish.

'Fantastic surprise'

Previous surveys by the University of Exeter's School of Biosciences, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Cornwall Wildlife Trust have also seen bottlenose and common dolphins.

"This sudden influx of these beautiful, giant fish was a fantastic surprise," said Dr Brendan Godley, senior lecturer at the University of Exeter Cornwall Campus.

"We only spotted the sunfish lying on their side at the surface so there may have been more below the waves.

"This is the first time we have spotted them during our surveys, and we think they have arrived here in order to take advantage of anticipated jellyfish blooms as the summer sea temperatures rise."

The monthly aerial surveys, funded by the European Social Fund with additional support from the MCS, began in January.

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