Meet the Mola Mola

by Laura Overdeck

The mola mola fish, or sunfish, is definitely a fish, but looks more like an alien visiting from outer space. This squashed, Frisbee-like sea creature looks like a head connected to a tail with no body in between. But it can weigh up to 5,000 pounds and can grow to over 10 feet long, making it as massive as a pickup truck. What’s even weirder is its role in the ocean: sunfish carry around 40 kinds of parasites, which is any small living thing that rides on bigger animals and eats stuff off them to stay alive. By carrying those parasites, the mola mola does a favor to other animals: it lets half-moon fish eat the parasites off it, and if those fish can’t finish the job, the mola mola floats belly-up and lets seagulls nibble away the rest. None of this sounds tasty, but it seems to keep everyone happy.

Wee ones: If you find a 10-foot sunfish and your car is just 1 foot longer, how long is your car?

Little kids: If a 2,000-pound mola mola runs into an even yuckier-looking 5,000-pound one, how much heavier is the bigger fish?  Bonus: Do they weigh more together than your 4,000-pound car?

Big kids: Sunfish love to eat jellyfish, but also eat squid, shrimp, and crab, among other things. If a sunfish eats 40 of each of those, how many animals did it eat?  Bonus: Most sunfish are only about 6 feet long, and about 6 feet tall, too, since they’re almost circular. About how much taller than you is the sunfish in feet and inches? (Or if you’re taller, how much taller are you?)

Answers:
Wee ones: 11 feet.

Little kids: 3,000 pounds.  Bonus: Yes, since together they weigh 7,000 pounds.

Big kids: 160 animals.  Bonus: Different for everyone…the sunfish is about 72 inches tall, so subtract your height in inches from 72 or subtract 72 from your height.

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