When we think of the big ocean fishes it’s the billfishes, tuna, and sharks that typically come to mind. Strong, sleek, torpedo shaped apex predators. But one of the largest bony fishes in the sea strays far from that mold. The ocean sunfish (Mola mola) can reach 2,205lbs (1,000 kg) and in appearance looks like an enormous disembodied fish head with fins but no tail, and that’s basically what it is. Most of the sunfish’s common names around the world are in reference to this appearance, in Germany it’s known as the schwimmender kopf which translates to “swimming head”. Even the scientific name references the fish’s peculiar shape, Mola is Latin for stone mill
With the knowledge that the fishes of the Molidae family belong to the Tetraodontiforme (pufferfish, porcupinefish, filefish, etc.) order their appearance starts to make more sense, they look like large pufferfish. They also share many features in common with that order, including teeth fused into a beak-like structure that gives the order its name. Mola fry even look more like pufferfish than adult Mola, complete with spiny projections. Ocean sunfish are not related to the freshwater sunfishes of the Centrarchidae family.
Frequently called by its scientific name, Mola mola, there are actually three species in the Mola genus but Mola mola is the most well known. The figure we’re looking at represents Mola mola specifically and I’m not sure that the other two species have ever been reproduced in plastic.
The Wild Safari ocean sunfish was produced in 2013 and comes with a detachable base made to look like a wave. It stands 4.1” (10.4 cm) tall and measures 3.2” (8.1 cm) long. Ocean sunfish average 5.9’ (1.8 meters) long and 8.2’ (2.5 meters) tall from tip-to-tip of their dorsal and anal fins. The model is about 1/20 in scale.
Looking at the small, rectangular mouth of this sculpt it is difficult to imagine the Mola mola preying on smaller fishes, but it does, along with squid, crustaceans, and sea jellies. The sculpt also has the large, vacant looking eyes that gives actual Mola a somewhat dim looking appearance. Mola mola have four gill slits but they’re all contained within a small hole which can be seen just ahead of the pectoral fins.
Ocean sunfish don’t have an actual caudal fin. In place of the caudal fin the dorsal and anal fins have come together to form what is called the clavus, differentiated here with a darker gray color tone. With this adaptation the ocean sunfish is quite capable of surprising bursts of speed, despite appearances.
Ocean sunfishes are generally some shade of gray in color but can also be brown or nearly white with some sort of mottling. This toy is grey with pale spotting between the dorsal and anal fin. Horizontal striations are etched into the sides of the fish, and fin rays are etched on the dorsal and anal fins.
As of this writing the Safari ocean sunfish is on sale on Safari’s website for only $2.50 US, it’s been up there for awhile and I actually got mine from there several months ago. This toy is a steal at that price so pick it up while it lasts. On Amazon it goes for about $10 US and it’s honestly worth that too, this is a fantastic figure of a fascinating animal.