The Mola mola, or ocean sunfish, is a huge, prehistoric-looking fish native to temperate and tropical oceans. As one of the world's heaviest bony fishes, adult Mola mola weigh an average of 2,200lbs (1,000kg) and can have a fin-to-fin length of up to 10ft 10in (3.3 m)!
Mola mola spend a large portion of their lives feeding at depths far greater than those visited by scuba divers, so sightings of these strange creatures are relatively rare. Here are some fun facts about the Mola mola:
Mola mola is the Latin name for the ocean sunfish, where mola is Latin for millstone. This is an apt description of this large round, grey fish.
While they were originally thought to travel by drifting on ocean currents, Mola mola are now known to swim at cruising speeds of 1.7 knots (3.2km/h). They can display short bursts of speed when chasing prey or avoiding predators, and have even been seen leaping out of the water.
Mola mola can sometimes be spotted 'sunbathing' at the surface. This behavior is thought to aid their thermal recharge following deep water feeding sessions, however, birds have also been observed removed parasites from floating Mola mola dinner plates.
When first hatched young Mola mola are the size of a pinhead and weigh less than 1 gram. By the time they reach adulthood they have grown in size by up to 60 million times!
Mola mola are designated as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Their tendency to loiter on the surface makes them particularly susceptible as bycatch in trawler nets, gill nets, and long lines. It's estimated that almost 30% of California swordfish bycatch is made up of Mola mola.
One of the best places in the world for guaranteed sightings of Mola mola is Crystal Bay on the island of Nusa Penida, Bali. Between July and November each year, the cooler water attracts Mola mola up from the depths to mingle with divers just below the surface.
Find out more about diving Bali with Bluewater Travel.
Check out great deals on underwater camera packages from the Bluewater Photo Store.
Read all about Mola mola encounters in the Galapagos from the Underwater Photography Guide.