10 Interesting Facts About the Mola Mola, or Ocean Sunfish

By OpenCage - [1], CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39330708

Mola mola, or Ocean Sunfish picture from Wikimedia Commons


The fish so nice they named it twice!
1. Mola mola are known because of their unusual shape: an upright flattened disk, tapered top and bottom fins between body and tail, and small black eyes halfway between its small pectoral (side) fins and round mouth.
2. Sunfish got their name because they like to lay down on their sides and sun themselves at the surface. They do this to stay warm and to get rid of parasites (seabirds eat those).
3. Mola are related to pufferfish, porcupinefish, and filefish (same Order Tetradontiformes).
4. Mola lack a swim bladder so they swim constantly (or move fins side-to-side to hover).
5. Average length 5.9 ft (1.8m), 8.2 ft (2.5m) fin-to-fin
Max length 10.8 ft (3.3m), 14 ft (4.2m) fin-to-fin
Weight range 545 lbs (247kg) to 5,100 lbs (2,300kg)
6. A single mola can host up to 40 species of parasites. It gets rid of them by sunning at the surface and having seabirds eat the parasites, or by cleaner fish and other fish eating the parasites at cleaning stations, or by breaching up to 10 ft (3m) out of the water.
7. Sunfish eat mainly jellies, but also eat salps, squid, crustaceans, small fish, fish larvae and eel grass.
8. Mola can swim to depths down to 2,000 ft (600m).
From Wikipedia http://www.amonline.net.au/fishes/fishfacts/fish/molalav.htm

Mola fry: notice the spikes all around it: photo by G. David Johnson


9. Sunfish can grow to 60 million times their birth size (0.1 in, 2.5mm), a record for vertebrates! As fry (babies that are part of the plankton), sunfish have spines all around their body that they outgrow.
10. Enemies as young include bluefin tuna and mahi mahi, as adults sea lions (who often bite off their fins and play with them), killer whales, sharks and humans (caught to eat or as by-catch).

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