Ocean sunfish recruiting fish near drift kelp to clean parasites, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish recruiting fish to clean it of parasites, near a patch of drifting kelp in the open ocean, Baja California, Mexico. Mola mola, Macrocystis pyrifera.

Ocean sunfish and freediving photographer, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) and freediving photographer, open ocean. San Diego, California.

Ocean sunfish schooling, open ocean near San Diego, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish schooling, open ocean near San Diego, Mola mola.

The ocean sunfish (Mola mola) is the world's largest known bony fish (sharks and rays are cartilaginous, not bony). At least one estimate over 3000 lb. has been recorded and individuals reaching 11 ft. (3 m.) from fin tip to fin tip have been seen. It is found in all oceans in tropical and temperate climes, and is known to eat gelatinous zooplankton (jellyfish) and probably small fishes and algae. In the eastern Pacific, Mola mola is normally found from British Columbia to South America, although in El Nino events it has been recorded as far north as Alaska.

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes to rid them of parasites, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish and freediving photographer, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Enormous ocean sunfish and freediving photographer, open ocean. Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish referencing drift kelp, open ocean near San Diego, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) referencing drift kelp, open ocean near San Diego.

Molas are often seen basking flat on the ocean surface, nearly motionless. This may be a thermoregulation behavior.

Ocean sunfish, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean Sunfish, San Diego

Ocean sunfish with mouth for slurping zooplankton, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

The business end of a mola: a mouth well suited for slurping gelatinous zooplankton, a principal food source for molas. Open ocean, Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean Sunfish, San Diego

Mola molas are sometimes observed breaching the ocean surface and landing with a splash, perhaps attempting to dislodge parasites. Ocean sunfish are occasionally mauled by California sea lions, especially near the Monterey Peninsula, reportedly because the sea lions eat the mola's internal organs and perhaps just for sport. The nearest relative to Mola mola is Ranzania laevis, the slender mola. Found in the tropical and subtropical Pacific, Ranzania is rarely seen north of Mexico. Up to 2 feet (.6m) in size, its aspect ratio is longer than is the nearly circular Mola mola. Neither species of Mola is to be confused with the tiny, freshwater sunfish, a completely different animal.

Ocean sunfish and photographer, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean sunfish and photographer, open ocean. Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish and videographer, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean sunfish and videographer, open ocean. San Diego, Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish schooling, referencing drift kelp, open ocean near San Diego, Mola mola

Ocean Sunfish, San Diego

Ocean sunfish, open ocean near San Diego, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish hovering near drift kelp paddy, open ocean, San Diego. Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California.

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

The Three Tenors.

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish schooling offshore, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California.

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California.

Ocean sunfish injured by boat prop with cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish injured by boat prop with cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California. Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) swimming just below the ocean surface, open ocean, San Diego.

Ocean sunfish, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean Sunfish, San Diego

Ocean sunfish and photographer, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Bloody enormous big toad Mola mola, ocean sunfish, dwarfs freediving photographer. Open ocean, San Diego.

Ocean sunfish hovers near drift kelp to recruite juvenile fish to remove parasites, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean sunfish hovers near drift kelp to recruite juvenile fish to remove parasites, open ocean. Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish hovers near drift kelp to recruite juvenile fish to remove parasites, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean Sunfish, San Diego

Ocean sunfish, juvenile and adult showing distinct differences in appearance, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean sunfish, juvenile and adult showing distinct differences in appearance, open ocean. Mola mola, San Diego.

Ocean sunfish, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Molas are often seen basking flat on the ocean surface, nearly motionless, perhaps as a form of thermoregulation or seeking birds to rid them of parasites.

Ocean sunfish, dorsal fin at water surface, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

When molas are swimming at the surface it is common for their fins to be mistaken for those of sharks. Ocean sunfish (Mola mola), dorsal fin at water surface, open ocean.

Ocean sunfish, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Mola mola swimming around my buddy Mike. Who's checking out whom?

Ocean sunfish, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

The caudal fin of the ocean sunfish is quite short and acts like a rudder, open ocean San Diego, California. Mola mola.

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Schooling Mola mola, giant ocean sunfishes.

Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Mola madness! This paddy had over 40 large molas under it. Ocean sunfish schooling near drift kelp, soliciting cleaner fishes, open ocean, Baja California.

Ocean sunfish, open ocean, southern California, Mola mola, San Diego

Ocean sunfish portrait, Mola mola, gliding below glassy ocean surface, Southern California.

Ocean sunfish, halfmoon perch removing its parasites, open ocean, Mola mola, Medialuna californiensis, San Diego, California

Mola mola being cleaned of parasites by halfmoon perch Medialuna californiensis.

Ocean sunfish sunning at surface, viewed from below, open ocean, Baja California, Mola mola

Ocean sunfish sunning at surface, viewed from below, open ocean, Baja California.

Ocean sunfish, open ocean, Mola mola, San Diego, California

Ocean Sunfish, San Diego