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Author: Linnaeus, 1758

Mola mola Linnaeus, 1758

Diagnosis: body sub-orbicular. Skin thick and rough. Gillrakers concealed in thick skin. Dorsal finrays 16-20; anal finrays 14-18; clavus with about 12 rays, 8-9 with terminal ossification, and no median lobe; pectorals rounded. Adult males with prominent snout and larger clavus. Colour: silvery grey, brown on back. Size: up to 3 m and 1.5 tonnes.

Habitat: pelagic, at least to 360 m depth. Behaviour: may swim or rest in vertical position. Food: said to eat crustaceans, other in vertebrates and also algae when inshore. Reproduction: eggs very numerous and small (300 million in a female 1.50 m long). Three developmental stages:
(I) tetraodontiform—body rather elongate, no spines, caudal fin present;
(2) ostracioniform—body shortened, with some large spines on body plates;
(3) molacanthiform (Molacanthus)—body short and high, skin rough with minute spines.

Distribution: Mediterranean, off western Europe to Scandinavia and occasionally western Baltic. Cosmopolitan.

Eggs, larvae and young stages. Swainson, 1839: 329 (Molacanthus) | Nardo, 1840: 112 (Pallasina) | DeKay, 1842: 330 (Acanthosoma) | Schmidt, 1926: 80, fig. 1-2 | Sanzo, 1939: 143, pl. 7 (fig. 16 17) | Fraser-Brunner, 1951: 117, fig. 15 | Tortonese, 1956: 972, fig. 828-830, pl. 51 (fig. 20-21).
Otoliths (sagitta). Thompson, 1888: 93, fig. 1-4.

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola)