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What is a Mola Mola AKA Sunfish?

What is a Mola Mola AKA Ocean Sunfish?

mola mola The Mola Mola, or the Ocean Sunfish, is known as the heaviest bony fish in the world! Adult Mola Molas can weigh up to 2.3 tonnes (~5,000 lbs) and can grow more than to 4 meters by 3 meters (~14 feet by 10 feet) long. However, for a fish this big and heavy, it lacks survival skills to flee from its predators. The Mola Mola lacks a tail, so they use their anal fins and long dorsal fins to swim.

The Mola Mola feed on jellyfishes, but they also eat squids, small fishes, shrimps, and salps. The massive fish prefers temperate and tropical waters; this is why a few can be found in the Philippines. Although rare, they were spotted in some regions of Visayas and Mindanao. You may dive Yapak 1 and Yapak 2 in Boracay for a chance to see one in the wild! They are very friendly animals.

Why is the Mola Mola called Sunfish or Ocean Sunfish?

mola mola sunbathing Mola Molas are also known as Sunfish or Ocean Sunfish in many countries around the globe.

"Mola Mola" is the scientific name of the Ocean Sunfish from its classification: genus Mola, species M. Mola. Mola is also Latin for millstone, a large, round, grey object that likely resembles the Mola Mola.

Meanwhile, the name "Ocean Sunfish" comes from their habit of sunbathing at the surface after deep, long dives. Because they are cover of parasites on their skin, they float up to the surface and lay on their side to let sea birds feed on the parasites.

The Mola Mola fish and facts

sunfish larvae Although the Mola Mola seems clueless, it is a creature full of surprising facts.

An adult female Mola Mola can lay as much as 300 000 000 eggs (300 millions) at one time than any other vertebrate. Some of these eggs serve as a food source for tunas and mahi-mahis (AKA common dolphinfish). When hatched, the Sunfish larvae is as small as a pinhead and have spines that protect it from predators. As it matures, the Sunfish fry loses the spines.

The Mola Mola is covered in parasites! Their wide size can easily make them a host of up to 40 different species of parasites. To get rid of the parasites on their skin, they float up to the surface and lay on their side to let seabirds feed on the parasites. They also approach cleaner fishes to do the job. The fishes and birds obtain food while the Mola Mola can swim free of parasites again. It's a win-win.

The deepest recorded dive for their species was 792 meters (~2,600 feet).

Where does the Mola Mola come from?

mola mola and diver While the Mola-Mola looks primitive, they are actually one of the most currently derived fish groups in the ocean.

They belong to the family Molidae which include the pufferfish, filefish, and porcupine fish.

They started evolving about 40 million years ago when a species of their kind ventured out in the open ocean from the coral reefs. There are currently three known species of Sunfish. They all differ in skin pattern, color and fin shape.

Predators of the Mola Mola

The natural predators of the Mola-Mola are Orcas, Great White Sharks and Sea Lions.

California Sea Lions, however, only attack Mola Molas for fun. They often just eat big chunks on the fish's body or rip off their dorsal fins, then leave the Mola Mola alive to sink and die. Adult Mola Molas travel alone or sometimes in pairs, but they have no defense tactics from predators like other marine animals.

Another threat to the Mola Molas is water pollution. It eats any jellyfish it can encounter, or what may look like a jellyfish. Plastic bags are often identified as jellyfishes by marine animals who prey on them for food.

Sea animals like the Mola Mola and Sea Turtles are active feeders of the jellyfish. They could either choke or be poisoned from the inside when accidentally ingesting plastics.

Status of the Mola Mola

Spotted Mola Mola Mola-Molas are endangered species.

As weird and useless as they may seem, Mola Molas are just as important as other fishes and marine animals in the ocean.

Without Mola Molas, there won't be enough predators to eat jellyfishes and control their population. Sharks, Orcas and Sea lions won't have enough food to sustain their diet.

Mola Molas are part of the food chain. If they become extinct, the food chain will be greatly affected.

The Mola Mola Researches and References

If you want to know more about the Mola Mola fish, take a look at some of our references below.

Images we use are from Wikimedia commons, and Free photos stocks as well as Youtube videos.

Speaking about Sunfish, and while writing this article, we still have doubts on Wikipedia who wrote in their article that the Mola Mola is sunbathing to get "warmer".
We cite (third paragraph, start after [25]):

... presenting its largest profile to the sun, may be a method of "thermally recharging" following dives into deeper, colder water in order to feed.

So why is it not in our article? Because when we have cross-referenced the two pages of the Wikipedia's article, they don't speak about that, but one speaks about parasites like this one and the other one speaks about upper waters not basketing at the surface.
Just to let you know about it.

Last, but not Least

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In addition to our monthly newsletter, we will send you our weekly e-Bulletin with one fascinating topic, like today's article above. There will be no advertising nor sales pitch.
As always we want to thank Youtube and Wikipedia commons for some amazing images and/or videos on this page!

Thanks for reading, and if you wish, see you next week!

The Research and Media Team at Scotty's.

The views, ideas, and opinions expressed by the writers of Scotty's Media team do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, ideas, and opinions of the company, Scotty's Action Sports Network, Inc.

More Pictures About the Mola Mola Ocean Sunfish

Mola Mola And Diver
Mola Mola And Diver
Mola Mola Sunbathing
Mola Mola Sunbathing
Mola Mola
Mola Mola
Ocean Sunfish
Ocean Sunfish
Spotted Mola
Spotted Mola
Sunfish Larvae
Sunfish Larvae

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