Juvenile Sunfish at Tanner Bank

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.

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Mola MolaJuvenile Sunfish at Tanner Bank

(NOTE:This video does not contain audio)

MP4 Video

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: 2/4/2015