The Unlikely Beauties of the Ocean: A Guide to Sunfish and Their Habits
by Jorge Mezcua on Feb 14, 2023
The ocean sunfish (mola mola) is a pelagic fish belonging to the order Tetraodontiformes. The ocean sunfish is the heaviest bony fish in the world. The average weight is usually one tonne, but specimens weighing up to 2,000 kilos and up to three meters in length have been found throughout history.
One of the most striking facts of the sunfish is that it has no tail or tail peduncle. With a flattened body and small pectoral and fan-shaped fins, the sunfish is slow-moving. Nor can it be said to be the most intelligent animal, as it has a very small brain, completely disproportionate to the rest of its huge body.
Ocean sunfish in Bali waters. Image by Kriss Sieniawski Photography
Its diet is based on gelatinous creatures such as the Portuguese Man O'War and various jellyfish, consuming enormous quantities every day. The importance of this animal in the food chain is important because, together with the sea turtles, it keeps the plagues of this type of jellyfish at bay. As a curiosity, it should be noted that moonfish grow very large and very fast, multiplying up to 600 million times their size from birth to death.
With a thick and rough skin, it is estimated that sunfish it can harbor up to 40 different species of pesky parasites. One of the techniques it uses to eliminate these parasites is to "lie" on the surface of the sea so that both fish and birds come to it to feed on these parasites. Because of this behavior, it is known in many parts of the world as the "sunfish" because it looks like it is sunbathing.
Unusually big sunfish spotted in Malta
Their predators include only the largest sharks, sea lions, killer whales and, of course, humans. Because they feed on poisonous animals, their meat contains toxins, but in some areas of China and Hong Kong it is considered a true delicacy of haute cuisine.
Ocean sunfish inhabit all the seas and oceans of the planet except the poles and are very close and friendly to humans who come to contemplate them.