Ocean Sunfish

The ocean sunfish, Mola mola, is a curious fish that left the reef for the open sea millions of years ago and are now found in all major oceans. Somewhere during this long evolutionary history, the mola lost its tail. This does not seem to slow the fish down too much; smaller animals (similar to those seen in the video) have been seen leaping out of the water. Not having a tail does not hinder their foraging either. Individuals feed primarily on gelatenous zooplankton which themselves are not strong swimmers. Somewhat surprisingly, even on a diet of jellies, mola grow larger than any other bony fish in the sea, reaching 2200 kg in size. Large adults are most commonly encountered basking on the surface, often near kelp patties. Smaller molas are seen in relatively large schools as in the video. While there are a few locations where mola are targeted for the dinner plate (mainly Asia), their main interaction with fisheries is as bycatch.

 

Sunfish Chart

Image: A mola being tagged with a pop-up satellite archival tag aboard the NOAA Ship David Starr Jordon in the summer of 2006. On this cruise, three mola were tagged and released. This tagging project is being supported by the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) program (www.toppcensus.orgThe EXIT LINK ICON hovering text should be: "The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site.  Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer).

Map: The capture and release locations for the three mola tagged during the cruise in 2006. These tags were attached for approximately 8 months before releasing. The map is an estimate of primary productivity near the time the tags released.

Learn more about ocean sunfish: www.oceansunfish.orgThe EXIT LINK ICON hovering text should be: "The previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site.  Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer

Mola MolaWatch footage from the ROV on 11/10/04 at Tanner Bank off of southern California of a school of small mola 30-40 cm in length. These fish were at 55 m depth at a water temperature of 13.4˚C. 

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Last modified: 12/24/2014