Mola mola family

Molidae taxonomy

Mola mola Linnaeus, 1758, Mediterranean Sea.

other common names English: Ocean sunfish.

physical characteristics

Body large, tall, and compressed. The body is scaleless, with a thick, elastic skin. The mouth is small, with a parrot-like beak formed by fused teeth. The caudal fin is replaced by a clavus, a rudder-like body-fin adaptation. Both the dorsal and anal fins have relatively short bases but are very high. These fins are flapped in a synchronous motion that allows for reasonably good speed and also for swimming sideways. The pectoral fins are small and point upward toward the dorsal fin. There are 15-18 soft rays in the dorsal fin and 14-17 soft rays in the anal fin. The swim bladder is absent in adults. The color is silvery gray. The tips of the dorsal and anal fins and the clavus are darkly colored. Grows to more than 130 in (330 cm) in total length. Flesh may be toxic.


Circumglobal in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate waters.


Frequents the pelagic realm but will move inshore to kelp beds. May be carried inshore by upwelling to the deep slopes of coral or rocky reefs. Depth range from surface down to 985 ft (300 m).


Solitary but occasionally found in small groups. Swims up to the surface and even exposes its dorsal fin in the air. Also lies on its side.

feeding ecology and diet

Feeds on jellyfishes, larger zooplankton, crustaceans, and fishes; also takes mollusks and brittle stars inshore.

reproductive biology

Not well known, but courtship probably is paired. Adult females are very fecund. Larvae are pelagic.

conservation status

Not listed by the IUCN.

Mola mola

Oxymonacanthus longlrostrls

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