It looks like a massive disk, round and flat, like a head with little fins attached to it and a weird face – the mighty mola mola or oceanic sunfish or moonfish.
Mola Mola facts
- The sunfish is the heaviest bony fish with the heaviest specimen of 2300 Kg at a length of 2.7m. The longest measured has been 4.2 m (1).
- Mola molas can carry the largest number of eggs ever recorded in a single vertebrate at any one time, which are up to 300 million eggs for a medium sized female in a single ovary.
- After hatching Mola Molas are spiky, more like a pufferfish and they actually do belong to the same order like puffer-, porcupine- and filefish (2).
- Their favorite food is gelatinous zooplankton such as jellyfish and ctenophores (3)
- Four species of Mola are known of the family Molidae
- Mola means milestone in Latin, referring to the shape and color of the animal
- The mola molas can often be seen flapping at the surface, bathing in the sun, therefore they are called sunfish.
- Natural predators of the sunfish are sea lions, orcas and sharks as well as parasites. In addition humans are a big threat mainly killing the mola molas as bycatch (2)
Dive with the Mola Mola
Sunfish can be found in all oceans of the world. However, they are not very often seen by scuba divers and regarded as rare. I had the best sighting in Bali, Indonesia. The season is July till September, the dive sites are Cristal Bay (Nusa Penida) and Mimpang Island. My other sightings were in Alor, Indonesia, there the Mola Molas are around when the cold currents come in and in Galapagos out of the season which is supposed to be June to November. In Tofo, Mozambique another dive group had a Mola Mola sighting while I was there during spring.
While occasional sunfish encounters are possible in several other regions, the most reliable locations to see them are Bali and Galapagos.
Have you ever had a chance to dive with one of those weird creatures? Where?