The ocean sunfish, or mola, is the heaviest of all bony fish. The name mola comes from the Latin word “millstone” because of its almost circular look when viewed from the side. Doesn’t it look like its tail got chopped off? The largest ocean sunfish recorded weighed almost 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms), which is about the weight of a car. It measured over ten feet (3.1 meters) long and fourteen feet (4.2 meters) tall! Even though they can be this large, they normally are a lot smaller – only up to six feet long, which is still big. The mola lays up to 300 million eggs at one time, which is more than any other vertebrate! When the baby fish hatch, they are only 1/10 inch (.25 centimeter) long and weigh 60 million times less than the adults can! When young, they are often preyed on by killer whales, sea lions, and sharks. The main food of an ocean sunfish is jellyfish, although they sometimes eat other stuff. Since these fish are prone to skin parasites, they will often let small fish or birds feed on the annoying pests. They will sometimes jump up to ten feet (3 meters) into the air and land violently in an attempt to shake off the unwanted hitch-hikers as do manta rays for the same reason. Ocean sunfish are quite curious, often approaching divers, which, although they are not dangerous, would be kind of scary because of their size. They are considered stable as far as their population, but frequently get caught in nets or suffocate on plastic bags which resemble jellyfish.
Don’t forget to check out the coloring sheet under the sources.
Here’s the picture of next week’s animal.
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- http://www.worldbookonline.com/pl/infofinder/article?id=ar754373&st=ocean+sunfish (account required)
- coloring/activity sheet
Ocean sunfish – public domain
Mystery animal – Wikipedia user:Glen Fergus