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Tuesday, 18 December 2012 14:06

Creature Feature The Swimming Head

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Often mistaken because of their awkward shape, the ocean sunfish looks more like a giant swimming head the a fish. Sunfish, or mola 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 (tail). Mola in Latin means "millstone" and describes the ocean sunfish’s somewhat circular shape.

The mola are the heaviest of all the bony fish, with large specimens reaching 14 feet vertically and 10 feet horizontally and weighing nearly 5,000 pounds.

young sunfish

Mola are found in temperate and tropical oceans around the world. They are frequently seen basking in the sun near the surface and are often mistaken for sharks when their huge dorsal fins emerge above the water. Their teeth are fused into a beak-like structure, and they are unable to fully close their relatively small mouths.

adult sunfish

They are clumsy swimmers, waggling their large dorsal and anal fins to move and steering with their clavus. Their food of choice is jellyfish, though they will eat small fish and huge amounts of zooplankton and algae. They are harmless to people, but can be very curious and will often approach divers.

The population of ocean sunfish is considered stable, though they frequently get snagged in drift gill nets and can suffocate on sea trash, like plastic bags, which resemble jellyfish.

Read 7852 times Last modified on Tuesday, 18 December 2012 14:13

Mark Watanabe

Mark "YakSushi" Watanabe is the Co. Founder of YakAngler.com, "He built this site!". He considers himself a mediocre fisherman and an unexceptional writer. He's the devoted father of a ton of little sushis (Air Quotes) and everyday tech ninja.


# standingyak 2012-12-18 14:46
Interesting that they look so primitive, but actually evolved fairly recently.

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