The characteristics of sunfish
The sunfish, also known as the mole or Mola mola, is one of the most bizarre creatures in the world but also one of the most enigmatic for its unusual measurements and its unusual appearance. It is in the Molidae family, it is its heaviest bone fish; its mass can reach two tons and its size more than three meters. One might think that his body is composed only of a head with a prominent forehead on which two fins have been grafted and two eyes at the extremities. It has other amazing features: it can change color and turn on one side to defend against a possible attack by seagulls that are among its many predators with sharks, sea lions, killer whales and, of course, fishing nets and floating litter.
As for its diet, it is mainly limited to jellyfish, plankton, squid and crustaceans. Do not worry because the pier is peaceful in nature and presents no danger to humans. They usually move between 50 and 200 meters deep and rise to the surface so that seabirds can rid them of their parasites. To date, there are 3 species of Mola Mola; the last one was listed in 2017 and discovered in Christchurch in New Zealand by an Australian woman after years of stalking. She decided to give it the name Mola tecta, the Latin tectus meaning “hidden”.
Large specimens can lay up to 300 million eggs that are swept away by currents until they reach maturity. In fact, females lay more eggs than any other known vertebrate. The freedom longevity of the moles is indeterminate but it seems that in captivity their lifespan can reach 10 years. Their growth is extremely fast. Their reproduction remains uncertain, however.
The world’s largest sunfish ever seen
The seabed is fascinating and contains so much unknown stuff. It still hide many mysteries. It would seem that some species of Mola Mola, considered the largest ever observed, have been sighted off some seas. The heaviest sunfish catch ever recorded dates back to 1908, but this record was matched by that of a female cat caught in 1996, which weighed 2.2 tons, or 2,200 kg! In the Azores islands of Portugal, in 2015, a huge sunfish over 4 meters long was filmed by divers. Despite their professionalism and experience, everyone agrees that it is an “incredible discovery in a lifetime”.
A historic fishing expedition was also conducted in Russia. A 1.2 tons mole has been caught in the Okhtsk Sea – a boon for scientists dedicated to research and evolution! Finally, another specimen, an impressive but harmless sea monster, was filmed during a diving trip off the island of Gozo, Malta.
Where to dive to observe the Mola Mola?
This gigantic creature lives mainly in tropical and temperate waters over 10 ° C. It cannot be otherwise because it would be disoriented and cooler waters could even cause her death. The sunfish often goes back to the surface and some scientists think that it performs a kind of thermal reloading that allows it to withstand temperatures below 10 ° C during its dives.
The seas and oceans in which the Sunfish is most present are: the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Channel between France and England La Manche, the North Sea, the Indo-Pacific and the Caribbean.
Bali is an ideal destination to meet the Mola Mola, especially from July to November. The dive sites where you will have the best chance of coming across one are: Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan in the south and Tepekong, Mimpang further north.
In Europe, it is also possible to see them on the French coasts but also in Portugal, and in Malta.