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Fascinating sunfish factsTe Papa recently received a rare sunfish specimen from Auckland Museum, so we decided to find out more about these mysterious ocean-dwelling animals. Here are our fascinating facts:
1.Sunfish don’t have a tail! Some people call them a ‘gigantic swimming head’ (which seems a bit rude). Instead of a tail their dorsal and anal fins are fused together into a rudder-like structure called a clavus. The sunfish swims by flapping its dorsal and anal fins synchronously, like oars. This is a common sunfish, also called an ocean sunfish, Mola mola. Our specimen is the rarer sharp-tailed sunfish, Masterus lanceolutus.
2. There are four species of sunfish: common sunfish (Mola mola), slender sunfish (Ranzania laevis), sharp-tailed sunfish (Masterus lanceolutus) and southern ocean sunfish (Mola ramsayi). The species at Te Papa is a sharp-tailed sunfish. Scientists know the most about the common sunfish, so we’re pretty excited to be able to find out more about the rare sharp-tailed sunfish.
3. Sunfish are the heaviest bony fish species alive today. Common sunfish weigh around a metric tonne on average. The biggest common sunfish ever caught weighed over two metric tonnes!