Ecology of Mola mola
Main Ref. Clemens, W.A. and G.V. Wilby, 1961
Remarks The fish is found on slopes adjacent to deep water. The fish comes in for shelter and for seeking cleaner fishes. The fish is usually shy. However, it may become familiar with divers in some locations (Ref. 48637). The species often drifts at the surface while lying on its side. It swims upright and close to the surface. The dorsal fin often protruds above the water. The species has been filmed in 480 m depth with the help of a camera equipped with baits(Lis Maclaren, pers. Comm. 2005). The species eats fishes, mollusks, zooplankton, jellyfish, crustaceans and brittle stars (Refs. 4925, 48637). Contrary to reports of being an obligate feeder on gelatinous zooplankton, it has been reported, in fact, to display different feeding behaviors, feed on diverse food items, including filamentous brown algae from shallow water. Juveniles are likely to be benthos feeders. Feeding behavior includes accelerated movement towards slowly moving prey. Exhibits qualitative overlapping diet with Masturus lanceolatus (Ref. 119029). A live colony of the cirriped Lepas anatifera were found attached to the anterior portion of the sunfish's esophagus that was stranded in the south coast of Terceira Island, Azores Archipelago in 2004; an association with apparent advantages for the goose barnacles such as a regular intake of food and protection both from hydrodynamic hazards and from predators: but for the sunfish, it is not clear whether it is neutral, of advantage or causes feeding problems since the attachment may obstruct the sunfish's esophagus (Ref. 55063). Parasites of the species include 1 monogenean, 6 trematodes, 3 cestodes and 4 copepods (Ref. 5951). The fish is registered as the heaviest bony fish and as the one with the most eggs in the Guinness Book of World Records (Ref. 6472).

Aquatic zones / Water bodies

Marine - Neritic Marine - Oceanic Brackishwater Freshwater
Marine zones / Brackish and freshwater bodies
  • supra-littoral zone
  • littoral zone
  • sublittoral zone
  • epipelagic
  • mesopelagic
  • epipelagic
  • abyssopelagic
  • hadopelagic
  • estuaries/lagoons/brackish seas
  • mangroves
  • marshes/swamps
  • rivers/streams
  • lakes/ponds
  • caves
  • exclusively in caves
Highighted items on the list are where Mola mola may be found.


Substrate Ref.
Special habitats
Special habitats Ref.


Associated with
Association remarks


Feeding type mainly animals (troph. 2.8 and up)
Feeding type Ref. Clemens, W.A. and G.V. Wilby, 1961
Feeding habit hunting macrofauna (predator)
Feeding habit Ref.
Trophic Level(s)
Estimation method Original sample Unfished population Remark
Troph s.e. Troph s.e.
From diet composition
From individual food items 3.28 0.43 Trophic level estimated from a number of food items using a randomized resampling routine.
Ref. Bigelow, H.B. and W.C. Schroeder, 1953
(e.g. 346)
(e.g. cnidaria)
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