Mola mola (Linnaeus, 1758)


Mola mola

Description: Sunfish belong to the same group of fish as the pufferfish (Molidae). Members of this group have small mouths with beak-like teeth. The body is short and tall and flattened from side to side. The most striking characteristic of this species is the apparent absence of a tail as this is reduced to a stiff, frill-like membrane. In most fish the tail fin is the main means of propulsion, however in the sunfish the dorsal and anal fins are modified to form long 'paddles' which move from side to side. The upper half and fins are dark blue or grey-brown and the underside is silvery-white. This is one of the largest open water fish growing to a maximum length of approximately 3m.

Habitat: Sunfish live in open water and are usually spotted swimming or drifting at the surface of the water. They mostly feed on planktonic animals, especially jelly-fish, salps and comb-jellies.

Distribution: The sunfish is distributed throughout the world in warm and temperate seas. In the British Isles they are mostly encountered late in the summer around August and September.

Similar Species: This species resembles the slender sunfish (Ranzania laevis) however this species is very rare in the seas around Britain and Ireland.

Key Identification Features:

Distribution Map: NBN map : National Biodiversity Network mapping facility, data for UK.

WoRMS: Species record : World Register of Marine Species.

iNaturalist: Species account : iNaturalist World Species Observations database

 Picton, B.E. & Morrow, C.C. (2016). Mola mola (Linnaeus, 1758). [In] Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland.
https://www.habitas.org.uk/marinelife/species.asp?item=ZG9540 Accessed on 2024-06-24

[Show species list]