Giant Sunfish


There’s something about the sea that completely creeps me out. Knowing that it’s so vast is somewhat of a mind boggle. It’s sort of like the concept of outer space only right here on earth. Who knows what can be down there, lurking about unseen? Well we do know a great deal about a lot of the creatures living in the ocean. Although some of them, like this giant Sunfish, might make us wonder why such things are out there at all.

If you’re out enjoying a lovely boat ride in the ocean and you see the point of a dorsal fin rise up out of the water, your first thought is probably, “shark!” This giant fish has a habit of faking people out. They like the warmth of the sun, too. But rest assured, you would much rather be approached by one of these friendly fish. Sunfish, also called Mola, are very prone to curiosity and will often approach divers. Probably to see what kind of interesting fish they are; or aren’t, in this case.

Their round shape is due to the malformation of their back fin. Instead of growing outward it grows in on itself, creating the rounded nub appearance. They can still use it to steer their massive selves in the desired direction, though. Instead of having cartilage, like many fish, Sunfish have bone skeletons. Their large frame, which can extend 14 feet high and 10 feet long, has them weighing in at around 5,000 pounds! This makes them the heaviest bony fish.


Unfortunately, these big friendly fish draw in parasites like a beacon. Often, they’ll have so many parasites, Sunfish will allow other fish to help themselves to an all you can eat, parasite buffet. Sometimes even birds are allowed to participate. When these pesky parasites get particularly bothersome, Sunfish will fling themselves out of the water in the hopes of knocking some of them off during the process.

Though there may be a vast amount of interesting and very large creatures in the ocean, it’s comforting to know that there are big fish out there who can be as curious and friendly as we are.

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Julie Antonson

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