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Mola mola  (Linnaeus, 1758)

Ocean sunfish
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Mola mola
Picture by Zuberbuhler, T.

Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Tetraodontiformes (Puffers and filefishes) > Molidae (Molas or Ocean Sunfishes)
Etymology: Mola: Latin, mola, -ae = stone mill; because of the shape of this fish (Ref. 45335).

Environment / Climate / Range Ecology

Marine; pelagic-oceanic; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 30 - 480 m, usually 30 - 70 m (Ref. 90102).   Subtropical; 12°C - 25°C (Ref. 37040); 75°N - 65°S, 180°W - 180°E

Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 333 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 26340); max. published weight: 2.3 t (Ref. 47360)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 15-18; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 14 - 17. The scaleless body is covered with extremely thick, elastic skin. The caudal fin is replaced by a rudder-like structure called 'clavus'. Dorsal and anal fins very high with short base; in swimming, these fins are flapped synchronously from side to side and can propel the fish at surprisingly good speed. Pectorals small and rounded, directed upward (Ref. 6885). Mouth very small; teeth fused to form a parrot-like beak. Gills 4, a slit behind the last; gill openings reduced to a small hole at the base of the pectoral fins. Gas bladder absent in adults.

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Warm and temperate zones of all oceans. Eastern Pacific: British Columbia, Canada (Ref. 2850) to Peru and Chile (Ref. 5530). Western Pacific: Japan to Australia (Ref. 86345). Eastern Atlantic: Scandinavia to South Africa (occasionally western Baltic, Mediterranean). Western Atlantic: Newfoundland, Canada (Ref. 7251) to Argentina (Ref. 36453).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Molas are distinguished for their distinct morphological characters which include reduced/fused caudal elements, presence of a clavus in place of the caudal fin, absence of a swim bladder and a degenerate, cartilaginous skeleton (Ref. 86435). Adults are found on slopes adjacent to deep water where they come in for shelter and for seeking cleaner fishes. They are usually shy. However, they may become familiar with divers in some locations (Ref. 48637). Individuals often drift at the surface while lying on its side but can swim actively and are capable of directional movements otherwise (Ref. 86435). They swim upright and close to the surface. The dorsal fin often protrudes above the water. Females are larger than males (Ref. 86435). This species has been filmed in 480 m depth with the help of a camera equipped with baits (Lis Maclaren, pers. comm. 2005). Adults eat fishes, mollusks, zooplankton, jellyfish, crustaceans and brittle stars (Ref. 4925, 5951, 48637). A live colony of the cirripede Lepas anatifera were found attached to the anterior portion of the sunfish's esophagus that was stranded in the south coast of Terceira Island, Azores Archipelago in 2004. This association has apparent advantages for the goose barnacles such as a regular intake of food and protection both from hydrodynamic hazards and from predators: but for the sunfish, it is not clear whether it is neutral, of advantage or causes feeding problems since the attachment may obstruct the sunfish's esophagus (Ref. 55063). The sunfish is registered as the heaviest bony fish and as the one with the most eggs in the Guinness Book of World Records (Ref. 6472). Generally this species is not used as food fish; some people consider it as a delicacy (Ref. 30573). The fish can be utilized fresh and can be broiled (Ref. 9988). Some parts of the fish are used in Chinese medicine (Ref. 12166). Molas may contain the same toxin as puffers and porcupine fish (Ref. 13513). They do not adapt well in captivity (Ref. 12382, 37040). Juveniles are victims of California sea lions in Monterey Bay (Ref. 37040).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Produces very numerous and small eggs; 300 million eggs found in a 1.5 m long female (Ref. 4711). Oocytes in the ovaries develop in different stages suggesting Mola mola as a multiple spawner (Ref. 86440). This is the largest clutch estimate for this species (Ref. 53596).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Tortonese, E., 1990. Molidae. p. 1077-1079. In J.C. Quero, J.C. Hureau, C. Karrer, A. Post and L. Saldanha (eds.) Check-list of the fishes of the eastern tropical Atlantic (CLOFETA). JNICT, Lisbon; SEI, Paris; and UNESCO, Paris. Vol. 2. (Ref. 6952)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)

CITES (Ref. 94142)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans

  Poisonous to eat (Ref. 13513)




Human uses

Fisheries: minor commercial
FAO(fisheries: production; publication : search) | FisheriesWiki | Sea Around Us

More information

Countries
FAO areas
Ecosystems
Occurrences
Introductions
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Ecology
Diet
Food items
Food consumption
Ration
Common names
Synonyms
Metabolism
Predators
Ecotoxicology
Reproduction
Maturity
Spawning
Fecundity
Eggs
Egg development
Age/Size
Growth
Length-weight
Length-length
Length-frequencies
Morphometrics
Morphology
Larvae
Larval dynamics
Recruitment
Abundance
References
Aquaculture
Aquaculture profile
Strains
Genetics
Allele frequencies
Heritability
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Processing
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Ciguatera
Speed
Swim. type
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Otoliths
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Internet sources

BHL | Cloffa | BOLDSystems | Websites from users | Check FishWatcher | CISTI | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | DiscoverLife | DORIS | Faunafri | Fishtrace | GenBank(genome, nucleotide) | GOBASE | Google Books | Google Scholar | Google | IGFA World Record | iSpecies | National databases | Public aquariums | PubMed | Scirus | SeaLifeBase | Tree of Life | uBio | Wikipedia(Go, Search) | World Records Freshwater Fishing | Zoological Record

Estimates of some properties based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805):  PD50 = 0.8125   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.02239 (0.00837 - 0.05988), b=3.02 (2.79 - 3.25), based on LWR estimates for this (Sub)Family-body shape (Ref. 93245).
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278):  3.7   ±0.47 se; Based on food items.
Resilience (Ref. 69278):  Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (tmax = 8 (in captivity); Fec=300 million (batch fecundity)).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  Very high vulnerability (82 of 100) .
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Unknown.