Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean online information system

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Species: Mola mola, Ocean Sunfish, Ocean Sunfish Mola

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deep oval, height ~length
C = short rudder, convex, undulating edge
C: ~12 rays, edge with small, separated ossicles
lips horizontal



Mola mola (Linnaeus, 1758)

Ocean Sunfish, Ocean Sunfish Mola

Body a deep oval (depth usually ~ length), strongly compressed; mouth a horizontal slit when closed, opens at the front, is a beak (without a central suture) composed of teeth fused to the jaws; gill openings small, on side just before pectorals; gill rakers are covered with skin; pectorals short, rounded; no pelvics; dorsal 17-18 rays; anal 14-18 rays; pectoral 12-13 rays; no tail base; dorsal and anal fins long and high, symmetrical, used for locomotion, at rear of body, their rear rays joined to tail fin immediately behind them that is reduced to a vertically elongate, short, blunt rudder; tail rudder with 12 (10-13) supporting rays, 8-9 of those with bony ossicles, margin with 8-9 ossicles that are small, widely separated; edge of rudder with an undulating rounded profile; skin thick, tough, with small round denticles; a band of reduced denticles between dorsal and anal fins at base of rudder.

Grey brown to dark blue above, often with large pale blotches, silvery below, fins dark.

Size: 368 cm.

Habitat: oceanic.

Depth: near surface, 0-480 m.

Circumglobal, tropical to warm temperate; Newfoundland to Argentina.

Note: Genetic analyses indicate that the Atlantic and Pacific forms probably are separate species.

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  • Marine
  • Marine Only
  • Offshore
  • Offshore Only
Water Column Position
  • Mid Water
  • Near Surface
  • Surface
  • Water column only
  • Water column
FishBase Habitat
  • Pelagic
Feeding Group
  • Carnivore
  • Data
  • Planktivore
  • Data
  • Zooplankton
  • Bony fishes
  • Octopus/squid/cuttlefish
  • Pelagic crustacea
  • Pelagic fish larvae
  • Pelagic jellyfish/ctenophores
Egg Type
  • Data
  • Pelagic
  • Pelagic larva
Global Endemism
  • All species
  • Circumtropical ( Indian + Pacific + Atlantic Oceans)
  • Greater Caribbean non-endemic
Regional Endemism
  • Also in Brazil
  • Continent
  • Continent + Island (s)
  • Extends N + S of GC
  • Extends North of GC
  • Extends South of GC
  • GC non-endemic
  • Island (s)
  • All species
  • Resident
Climate Zone
  • Equatorial (0-10N, Costa Rica / Venezuela)
  • Subtropical (23-35N, Florida / Carolinas / Bermuda)
  • Temperate (>35N)
  • Tropical (10-23N, Nicaragua / Cuba)
IUCN Red List
  • Listed
  • Vulnerable
  • Not listed
Length Max
  • 368
Depth Range Min
  • 0
Depth Range Max
  • 480