Creature Feature: Sunfish


Common Facts:

Diet – Jellyfish, small fish, zooplankton and algae

Size – Up to 14 feet

Weight – Up to 5,000 pounds

Habitat – Open Waters

Sunfish, also known as Mola, are one of the largest fishes to be found in the ocean. Out of all the bony fish, they are heaviest. The largest Sunfish have been known to reach 14 feet vertically and 10 feet horizontally and can weigh up to 5,000 pounds. Which is a little shocking for a fish that looks so much like a pancake.

“Sunfish, or mola, develop their truncated, bullet-like shape because the back fin which they are born with simply never grows. Instead, it folds into itself as the enormous creature matures, creating a rounded rudder called a clavus.” Their odd shape makes them awkward swimmers. They use their dorsal and anal fins to move and steer with their clavus.

Sunfish can be found in the warm and tropical oceans around the world. They love to rest just below the surface of the water, so that they can bask in the sun, hench the name Sunfish. Sometimes, when one of their big fins sticks up out of the water, people mistake them for sharks. But don’t be alarmed, Sunfish are not a threat to humans.

Oftentimes, Sunfish become infested with skin parasites. When this happens, they allow small fish and sometimes even birds to peck at their skin and get the parasites out.

Sunfish love to eat jellyfish, it is their main source of nutrients. Unfortunately, at times, they mistake plastic bags floating in the ocean as jellyfish, and have been known to choke on the bags. So be aware of your surroundings when you are at the beach! If you see trash, pick it up! You may be saving one of these beautiful, gentle creatures.

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Written by: Kari Shirley, intern



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