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Bali Sunfish - Mola Mola

Mola Mola

In Asia, the only place you can witness the presence of the Mola Mola while diving is in Bali. The giant Bali Sunfish, or Mola Mola, are some of Earth's most fascinating yet mysterious creatures. These passive Sunfish inhabit the dives sites of Bali all year round.

The ocean sunfish (Mola mola) or common mola is the heaviest bony fish in the world, with an average weight of 1000 kilograms. The species is native to tropical and temperate waters around the globe.

Sunfish live on a diet that consists mainly of jellyfish. As this diet is nutritionally poor, they consume large amounts in order to develop and maintain their great bulk. Females of the species can produce more eggs than any other known vertebrate. Sunfish fry resemble miniature pufferfish, with large pectoral fins, a tail fin and body spines uncharacteristic of adult sunfish.

Adult sunfish are vulnerable to few natural predators, but sea lions and orcas will consume them. Among humans, sunfish are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world, including Japan and Taiwan, but sale of their flesh is banned in the European Union. Sunfish are frequently, though accidentally, caught in gillnets, and are also vulnerable to harm or death from encounters with floating trash, such as plastic bags.

A member of the order Tetraodontiformes which includes pufferfish, porcupinefish and filefish, the sunfish shares many traits common to members of this order. Sunfish was originally classified as Tetraodon mola. under the pufferfish genus. But it has since been given its own genus, Mola, with two species under it. The ocean sunfish, Mola mola is the type species of the genus.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Osteichthyses (the bony fishes)

Order: Tetraodoniformes (trigger fish, boxfish, porcupine fish, puffers)

Family: Molidae

Genus, Species: Mola mola, Masturus lanceolatus, Ranzania laevis

Mola Mola

The ocean sunfish resembles a fish head without a tail. Its caudal fin is replaced by a rounded clavus, creating the body's distinct shape. The main body is flattened laterally, giving it a long oval shape when seen head-on. The pectoral fins are small and fan-shaped. However, the dorsal fin and the anal fin are lengthened, often making the fish as tall as it is long. Specimens up to 3.2 metres (10.5 ft) in height have been recorded.

The ocean sunfish has an average length of 1.8 metres (5.9 ft), and an average weight of 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lbs), although individuals up to 3.3 metres (10.8 ft) in length and weighing up to 2,300 kilograms (5,100 lbs) have been observed.

The spinal column of M. mola contains fewer vertebrae and is shorter in relation to the body than that of any other fish. The spinal cord of a specimen measuring 2.1 metres (7 ft). in length is under 25 millimetres (1 in) long. Even though sunfish descended from bony ancestors, its skeleton actually contains largely cartilage tissues which is lighter than true bone and allows it to grow to sizes uneconomical for other bony fishes.

The sunfish lacks a swim bladder. Some sources indicate that the internal organs contain a concentrated neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin, like the organs of other poisonous tetraodontiformes, while others dispute this claim.

 

When to see Bali Sunfish?

The most common time of year to see the Bali Sunfish is from July until November. However, there is a good chance of seeing Sunfish at any time during August - October, although there are better times to visit which increase your chances of seeing large numbers of Bali Sunfish.

By far the best place to see the Bali Sunfish is at Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. There are a few individual sites where the Sunfish congregate in large numbers. The sites are extremely variable and require perfect timing and an expert guide in order to the find Sunfish.

Dive with us and you have a 95% success rate of sighting the Sunfish. To dive with us in Bali for sights of the Mola Mola, please contact us here.

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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please contact us here.  

 

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