Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish)

Walter Colvin

Showlow, United States

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3d art render fn ocean sunfish

Made with bryce 3d.

The ocean sunfish, Mola mola, or common mola, is the heaviest known bony fish in the world. It has an average adult weight of 1,000 kg (2,200 lb). The species is native to tropical and temperate
waters around the globe. It resembles a fish head with a tail, and its main body is flattened laterally. Sunfish can be as tall as they are long when their dorsal and ventral fins are extended.
Sunfish live on a diet that consists mainly of jellyfish, but because this diet is nutritionally poor,

they consume large amounts in order to develop and maintain their great bulk. Females of the
species can produce more eggs than any other known vertebrate. Sunfish fry resemble miniature
pufferfish, with large pectoral fins, a tail fin and body spines uncharacteristic of adult sunfish.
Adult sunfish are vulnerable to few natural predators, but sea lions, orcas and sharks will consume them. Among humans, sunfish are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, including
Japan, the Korean peninsula and Taiwan, but sale of their flesh is banned in the European Union.

Sunfish are frequently, though accidentally, caught in gillnets, and are also vulnerable to harm or death from encounters with floating trash, such as plastic bags.

A member of the order Tetraodontiformes, which also includes pufferfish, porcupinefish and filefish, the sunfish shares many traits common to members of this order. It was originally classified as Tetraodon mola under the pufferfish genus, but it has since been given its own genus,
Mola, with two species under it. The ocean sunfish, Mola mola, is the type species of the genus.

The ocean sunfish resembles a fish head with a tail. Its caudal fin is replaced by a rounded clavus,
creating the body’s distinct shape. The main body is flattened laterally, giving it a long oval shape
when seen head-on. The pectoral fins are small and fan-shaped. However, the dorsal fin and the
anal fin are lengthened, often making the fish as tall as it is long. Specimens up to 3.2 m (10.5 ft)
in height have been recorded.

The ocean sunfish has an average length of 1.8 m (5.9 ft), and an average weight of 1,000 kg (2,200 lb), although individuals up to 3.3 m (10.8 ft) in length 4.2 m (14 ft) across the finsand
weighing up to 2,300 kg (5,100 lb) have been observed.

The spinal column of M. mola contains fewer vertebrae and is shorter in relation to the body
than that of any other fish. The spinal cord of a specimen measuring 2.1 m (6.9 ft) in length is
under 25 mm (1 in) long. Even though sunfish descended from bony ancestors, its skeleton
actually contains largely cartilaginous tissues, which are lighter than bone, allowing it to grow to
sizes impractical for other bony fishes. This is also illustrated by the fact that the largest fish in existence today is the whale shark, an entirely boneless fish.

The sunfish lacks a swim bladder. Some sources indicate that the internal organs contain a
concentrated neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin, like the organs of other poisonous tetraodontiformes,while others dispute this claim.

Ocean sunfish are native to the temperate and tropical waters of every ocean in the world. Mola
genotypes appear to vary widely between the Atlantic and Pacific, but genetic differences
between individuals in the northern and southern hemispheres are minimal.

Sunfish are pelagic and swim at depths of up to 600 m (2,000 ft). Contrary to the general
perception that sunfish spend much of their time basking at the surface, research suggests that
adult M. mola actually spend a large portion of their lives submerged at depths greater than 200 m (660 ft), occupying both the epipelagic and mesopelagic zones.

They usually stay in water warmer than 10 °C (50 °F). In fact, prolonged periods spent in water at
temperatures of 12 °C (54 °F) or lower can lead to disorientation and eventual death.

Researchers theorize that the basking behaviour at the surface, in which the sunfish swims on its
side presenting its largest profile to the sun, may be a method of “thermally recharging” following
dives into deeper, colder water. Others point to sightings of the fish in colder waters such as
those southwest of England outside of its usual habitat as evidence of increasing marine
temperatures.

Sunfish are usually found alone, but occasionally in pairs or in large groups while being cleaned.
They swim primarily in open waters, but are sometimes seen near kelp beds taking advantage of resident populations of smaller fish which remove ectoparasites from their skin. Because sunfishmust consume a large volume of prey, their presence in a given area may be used as an indicator of nutrient-rich waters where endangered species may be found.

The diet of the ocean sunfish consists primarily of various jellyfish (similar to the diet of a leatherback turtle). Additionally, it consumes salps, comb jellies, zooplankton, squid, crustaceans,
small fishes, fish larvae, and eel grass. This diet is nutritionally poor, forcing the sunfish to
consume large amount of food to maintain its size. The range of food items found inside sunfish
indicates that the sunfish feeds at many levels, from the surface to deep water, and occasionally
down to the seafloor in some areas.

The sunfish can spit out and pull in water through its small mouth to tear apart soft-bodied prey.
Its teeth are fused into a beak-like structure, allowing it to break up harder organisms. In
addition, pharyngeal teeth located in the throat grind food into smaller pieces before passing
them to the stomach.

Artwork Comments

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