Ocean Sunfish (Mola Mola)
Latin name: Mola mola
Common name: Ocean Sunfish
In other languages: E: Mola, F: Poisson-lune, D: Mondfisch
Distribution: This epipelagic species lives in most of the world's warm and temperate seas.
Habitat: From the surface down to 50 metres.
Behaviour: This most gentle of sea creatures has on many occasions been mistakenly the cause of much alarm off popular beach resorts. It's habit of drifting with the prevailing tide or current close to the surface, with its dorsal fin clear of the water, has given rise to many a false alarm of shark sightings. Though on close examination the dorsal is nothing remotely like that of any shark, when seen in the open sea at a distance it resembles that of a shark. If approached slowly by the diver when opportunity permits, this fish will not take flight. When it does, its turn of speed is quite surprising.
The sunfish likes to take 'sunbaths' showing off one of its sides to the sun. This way birds can feed off the parasites nesting along the sunfish's body. The presence of birds is one of the reasons, why predators like sharks avoid the sunfish.
Diet: Zooplankton, small larvae and jellyfish.
Size: Common: 50 - 150cm, maximum: 330cm.
Shape: Round, flat body with small mouth and very thick skin.
Colour: Brownish or grey.
Enemies: The greatest danger are the tuna traps and nets that are set each year to catch migratory species. On the east side of Gibraltar each many are taken each year along with the tunny when the traps are lifted, many are killed outright and many are not. All are thrown back into the open sea only to be carried, weak and dying, onto the shoreline where they all perish (between 30 and 60 each time the trap is lifted).
Did you know: It is regarded as the 'biggest' fish due to the weight: A sunfish can weigh 1.5 tons. This is even more remarkably, when considering the sunfish's diet.