Last night as we were loading up after an incredible bioluminescence paddle, The Blue Water Ventures crew was treated to this iextremely unusual sight, a mola mola sunfish￼￼￼ in moss landing harbor!
Thanks to chris loose for capturing such a great video. Few years ago I wrote an essay about these amazing see creatures, the largest bony fish on the planet. This one was just a youngster!
Natural History Notes
Its is intriguing to note that the ocean sunfish lacks a swim bladder, the organ in fishes that gives them the ability to control their buoyancy. Ichthyologist once assumed that ocean sunfish traveled at the whim of prevailing currents drifting along with other planktonic forms of life. However, studies have revealed that the Mola mola can reach speeds of over 3 kilometers per hour and cover over 25 kilometers per day. While often appearing lethargic and slow moving near the surface, they are quite capable of speed and swimming to depth. However, since ocean sunfish are often drifting at a pelagic snail’s pace, they are subject to a high degree of parasitism. Seeking slow moving creatures such as sea turtles basking in the sun whales in breeding lagoons and meandering ocean sunfishes, a variety of parasites will climb aboard for an easily obtained and predictable meal.
Another interesting story can be woven between the Mola mola and Bufo marinus, the lethargic marine toads of Tropical America. Oozing from the paratoid glands of these impressively large toads is a milky substance which contains bufotoxin, a strong neurotoxin. The ocean sunfish is classified among the Tetraodontiformes, an order of marine fish which contain a powerful neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin. Unlike their cousin the pufferfish, ocean sunfish contain a relatively small amount of this deadly toxin. However, the toxins derived from both the marine toad and those from a Caribbean pufferfish have been used in the Haitian traditional practice of zombism.