The Mola Mola, The Rhinoceros-Sized Fish Of The Sea
Have you ever seen a fish so big that it could rival a land mammal? Meet the giant Mola mola.
The Mola mola, which is its real scientific name, can be found in the warm waters of tropical oceans around the world.
The gargantuan fish species is often spotted floating on its side at the surface of the ocean. Its perpetual state of "sunbathing" has earned it the nickname ocean sunfish.
The word "mola" means "millstone" in Latin, an obvious reference of the ocean sunfish's odd round shape which is mostly flat in its dimension like a pancake. Because of their habit of swimming to the surface, their giant dorsal fins that jut out of the water are often mistaken for sharks.
The Mola mola is commonly found basking in the rays of the sun on the ocean's surface. Scientists believe that this basking could be a method of digesting food, similar to what sharks do.
This weird animal's favorite meal is jellyfish, and its rows of teeth fuse so close together that their mouths are almost beak-like in shape. Because of this extreme dental condition, the Mola mola cannot close its mouth — ever. Instead, this creature slowly moves through the ocean with its mouth always agape.
The Mola mola's weird shape is complemented by its extreme weight. An individual Mola mola can reach up to 14 feet long and weigh up to two and a half tons — which is as heavy as a rhinoceros and slightly more than your average car. In fact, the ocean sunfish ranks as one of the world's heaviest fish, only beaten out by a handful of sharks and the giant oceanic manta ray.
Despite its heft, the Mola mola is known to perform high jumps like dolphins. These strange animals have been recorded to jump as high as 10 feet. Researchers posit that these jumps serve the practical purpose of ridding their bodies of the 40 different species of parasites that live on their skin at any given time.
Unfortunately, these gentle giants of the sea are frequent victims of fishing bycatch. Their tendency to hang around the ocean's surface makes them susceptible to getting caught in a trawling net. Sometimes, they can accidentally get hit by passing boats while they sunbathe at the surface, too.