Thursday, 18 August 2011

Species of the month - the Oceanic Sunfish!

Over the last couple of weeks there have been a couple of sightings what I think is an amazing and unusual fish: the Oceanic Sunfish! They are not often seen around these parts, so I thought I'd give you all a bit of information on our new species of the month.

The Oceanic Sunfish is otherwise known as Mola mola, can be found in all tropical and temperate waters and is one of only three species of sunfish. It is the worlds heaviest bony fish and the largest Mola ever recorded weighed 2235kg, was 4.26m tall and 3.1m in length!

It has a compressed body with long fins and the tail fin is actually an extension of the dorsal and anal fins. Amazingly the skin is so thick that it is believed to be bullet proof against a .22 calibre bullet!

The sunfish is well known for 'basking' in the sun on the surface of the water which is how it is often sighted. This behaviour is thought to be a way to remove parasites from its skin (which are eaten by birds or fish!) or possibly just a way to warm itself up. They are slow swimmers, drifting with the current and can dive up to 600m deep. The ocean sunfish feeds on jellyfish as well as some crustaceans and fish.

Sunfishes are also very fecund meaning the females produce many many many eggs! An adult female can carry up to 300 million tiny eggs!! So look closely next time your sea watching, you never know, you may spot a sunfish basking on the surface!

Photograph by Mike Johnson @

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