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Oceanic Sunfish on Ice
One dark and starry night in January a local college professor was ready to quit fishing off the deep-water docks in Gorontalo City. As he reeled in his empty hook, suddenly he snagged something. After patiently bringing his catch to the surface, he discovered that his empty hook had snagged the eye socket of a huge, strange fish. It looked like a silvery, flattened disk with long upper and lower fins but no tail. It measured two meters long! A remora stubbornly stuck to the strange fish�s face. The catch was taken to Gorontalo Provincial Fisheries Department. No one had ever seen such a creature, so they decided to preserve it in a local cold storage facility.
Last week during the Coral Preservation Campaign, local fishermen told Miguel�s Diving staff about the strange catch. After seeing its picture in the Fisheries Department office, we immediately realized it was an Oceanic sunfish (Mola mola). Seen in the oceans since the time of ancient Troy, its Latin name means millstone, since it looks like the flat round stone used for grinding grain into flour. The Oceanic sunfish is the largest bony fish in the ocean, measuring up to three meters and weighing up to two tons. It swims by flapping its long dorsal and ventral fins from side to side. Although pelagic, it is often near the surface. It is most often observed in the wild whilefloating motionless on its side, basking in the sun.
Its huge surface area is an ecosystem for thousands of parasites. Mola molas will come close to coral reefs for cleaning by tropical fish, including bannerfish. Once observers saw a huge sunfish floating on the surface, so that seagulls could pick it clean. The huge fish then flipped over, giving the gulls its other cheek. Mola molas mainly feed on jellyfish and plankton but can blow water to search for food along the substrate. Its hide is up to 15 centimeters thick! Causes of its eventual death are parasites, nets, and great white sharks. It is found in all oceans both tropical and temperate. One of the best places in the world to see this unusual fish is off Nusa Penida in Bali during the summer months. Click this link for great photos of this swimming millstone.
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