MOLA MOLA (OCEAN SUNFISH)
If you’ve ever tried to imagine what a giant swimming head might look like, you might have been imagining a mola mola. With their oddly stunted bodies, mola molas look like an interesting fish that hasn't quite been… finished.
Mola molas are the largest of the world’s bony fish. When mola molas are born, however, they are around the size of a pinhead. They begin to grow quite quickly, though. One specimen in the Monterey Bay Aquarium put on 822 pounds in 15 months, and on average they can measure up to 4.26 meters (14 feet) in height and 3.1 meters (10 feet) in length. The mola molas are not only the largest of the bony fish, but have the most potential for reproduction. Female Mola mola produce around 300 million eggs on average, meaning they produce more eggs than any other vertebrate on the planet.
Despite their massive growth rate, mola molas still lack ribs and a tail fin by the time they reach adolescence. They also have a fused spine, and so they awkwardly swim by fluttering their anal fin on the bottom and their dorsal fin on their top. Although they have a clavus, which is basically a truncated tail, they can only really use it as a modified rudder than as a source of propulsion.
The mola mola is also a fish that forgot its scales. Instead, they are covered in rubbery, thick skin that can be covered in tubercles and attracts parasites. Once the skin parasites get too pesky, the mola mola will solicit the help of small fish by offering the parasites up as a snack. They have been known to come to the water’s surface to invite birds to the same feast or even breach the water with a jump of 10 feet in hopes that the splash forces the parasites off.
Where to find mola mola:
In the waters of the Galápagos Islands, the mola mola are often seen when snorkeling along the northern shores of Fernandina and Punta Vicente Roca. Catch a glimpse of a mola mola on our Galapagos Islands Cruise.
The mola mola would be a dentist’s dream and worst nightmare all rolled into one. Their teeth are fused together to form a beak-like shape, and consequently they can’t fully close their mouths. If you’re looking to catch sight of a fish with lock-jaw and an intimidating “grill,” the mola mola is the one you’re looking for.