Object 12

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola)
Stuffed specimen, destined to the new permanent exhibition “Living Planet”
(opening foreseen in 2020)

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
Inv. 25306


This is a sunfish. Scientific name: Mola mola. Mola is Latin for "millstone". Indeed, this round, grey fish with its rough skin looks just like one.  In many languages, this fish is named after the full moon: maanvis, poisson-lune, Mondfisch ... In English, however, it is called the sunfish, because it often seen floating horizontally on the water's surface in order to ‘sunbathe’. In doing so, it warms itself up before diving deep into the ocean again, in search of food. As it sunbathes, it allows seabirds to remove any parasites.

The average sunfish is 1.8 metres long and weighs 1000 kilograms. However, some examples reach up to 3.3 metres long, 4.2 metres high and weigh up to 2,300 kilograms. A sunfish can live for 8 to 10 years.

Sunfish often swim just below the water's surface and their high dorsal fin is often mistaken for a shark. However, the dorsal fin of a sunfish moves shakily, while a shark's moves forward in a straight line.

Status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable (the number of mature individuals is decreasing)
Distribution: worldwide, in coastal areas

This sunfish will be one of almost 1,000 collection items in the future permanent exhibition on biodiversity, “Living planet”, which will be on display as from spring 2020 in the Museum of Natural Sciences.

Une aventure de Johan et Pirlouit : La Pierre de Lune
Een avontuur van Johan en Pirrewiet : Het raadsel van de maansteen
Dupuis, 1956



Back to the list of objects

Copyright © 2019 BELSPO