A Look At the Weird Pancake-Like Fish That Keeps Surprising Beachgoers

The mola, or an ocean sunfish, can get up to 5,000 pounds.

Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish) closeup underwater image.
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A few days ago, an ocean sunfish washed ashore in Australia, surprising beachgoers. The fish, called a mola, are the world’s largest bony fish and can weigh more than a car. It was only discovered and named two years ago, in 2017. They like to sunbathe on the ocean’s surface, and have actually sunk yachts.

The mola is pretty weird, to be frank. It has teeth in its throat, googly eyes that make it look constantly surprised, and it resembles a piece of driftwood. It has a pair of normal, side-to-side fins, according to The Atlantic, but also dorsal and anal fins, which “protrude vertically from the fish’s body.” These flappers can stretch up to 14 feet from tip to tip.

And oddly enough, though it looks like a large, heavy pancake, the sunfish can actually be quite speedy. According to The Atlantic, they have been recorded swimming as fast as 21.6 feet per second over short periods, which is enough to rival the yellowfin tuna.

There is a lot researchers don’t know about the ocean sunfish because the creature is notoriously shy. It is unclear how their dorsal fins counterbalance when they’re moving at different times. It is unclear what they eat, how long they live, and the differences between young fish and adult fish. And now, they are also now being found in unexpected places, capturing the hearts of beachgoers everywhere.

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