Exotic summer sealife

Exotic summer visitors

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In addition to its usual residents, Cornwall is fast establishing itself on the itinerary of more exotic travellers, such as turtles, giant ocean sunfish and bull sharks, with some blaming global warming for this influx of unusual species.

Tropical Turtles

Loggerhead turtleThe Leatherback Turtle is the world's largest living turtle and can weigh between 200 and 700 kilograms. The largest ever recorded weighed an astonishing 914 kg and was 2.6 meters long! These solitary animals, usually found in the warm waters of the Central Pacific, are the fastest swimmers and deepest divers of all the species of marine turtle. These highly migratory turtles are sighted fairly regularly around the coast of Cornwall. Indeed one giant leatherback that was tagged by conservationists in Central America proceeded to swim from Suriname to Cornwall and back!

Other species of turtle occasionally wash up on Cornwall's shores, sometimes by mistake! In 2008, for example, two hypothermic Loggerhead turtles washed up in Cornwall and Devon. Happily, they were nursed back to health in Newquay aquarium before being taken to the Canary Islands and released into the wild.

Giant Ocean Sunfish

ocean SunfishThe spectacular-looking giant Ocean Sunfish are one of Cornwall's most fascinating new arrivals. Generally believed to be a warm water species, it is thought that the recent influx - nineteen were spotted in two hours during an aerial survey carried out by scientists in 2006 – is due to increased jellyfish blooms possibly caused by climate change.

The fish, which can reach up to 1.5 tonnes and measure up to 11 feet, are the largest bony fish in the world and their size and peculiar appearance (they have no tail fin) has fascinated scientists for at least five hundred years. Also known as Mola Mola (Latin for millstone) the fish are nicknamed sunfish after their habit of coming to the surface and flopping over onto their sides to sunbathe.

You may well spot one doing this around the headlands of Cornwall on a sunny day, especially along the North Coast. It is even thought by some that the legendary millstone to which St Piran, the patron saint of Cornwall, was attached when he was flung off a cliff by bandits, and that later magically rose to the surface and carried him to safety was, in fact, a giant Ocean Sunfish.