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Ocean sunfish

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Ocean sunfish
Scientific Classification
  • Mola mola [2]
  • Masturus lanceolatus [3]
  • Ranzania laevis [4]
Molidae swim.jpg
Mola mola is swimming

The Ocean Sunfish is very large and dwells in very heavy salt water. The ocean sunfish is the largest bony fish in the world. They use their dorsal and anal fins as their main movement devices. They occasionally swim near the surface, showing their top fin, and may jump out of the water [5].

Body Design

Molidae body.jpg

An unusual looking fish and extreme lateral compression [6]. It has no caudal fin. The teeth in each jaw are fused to form a plate and a small round mouth. [7][8]. The average length is 5.9 ft, and has an average weight of 2,200 lbs. The largest ocean sunfish has a length of 14 feet and weight of 5,210 lbs [9]. They can live up to ten years [10]. The dorsal fin has 15 to 18 soft rays while the anal fins have 14 to 17 [11].

When ocean sunfish swim, they wave their dorsal and anal fins from side to side. They like to float on one side near the ocean surface. They are easily observed basking in the sun near the surface, where their dorsal fins are often mistaken for the dorsal fins of sharks. They are usually found alone and swim primarily in open waters. They can swallow and expel water through their mouth to tear apart soft-bodied prey. Their teeth are fused into a beak-like structure, allowing it to break up hard animals, and pharyngeal teeth located in the throat grind food into small pieces before passing them to the stomach [12].

Life Cycle

Because females can produce up to 300,000,000 eggs each breeding season, they are the most fecund extant vertebrate known to science today. Sexual reproduction takes place externally, consisting of eggs being release into the water that are then fertilized by sperm. The hatched sunfish larvae is 0.098 (2.4892 mm) inch long. They grow and becomes fry, with large pectoral fins, a tail fin and body spines uncharacteristic of adult sunfish [13]. The dorsal and anal fins grow and the body become covered with spines [14]. Their have a estimated life span of 82 to 105 years [15]


Molidae eco.jpg

They are found in oceanic waters, bays, continental shelf, continental slope, kelp forest, pelagic zones, zoo-plankton [16], and submarine canyon.[17] Sunfish are often seen laying flat on the ocean surface where they are mistaken for sharks [18] [19]. They have few enemies which are white sharks, orcas, and sea lions [20]. They are considered to have strategic top-down control of jellyfish populations [21]. They are used in traditional Chinese medicines [22].


Ocean sunfish typically eat seaweed, small crustaceans, starfish, jellyfish, salps, sponges, mollusks, algae, plankton, squid, and small fish. Basically, they eat everything that is small enough to fit inside their mouth.[23].