This week iin Lembongan, many of our Two Fish Divers customers were able to behold the weird and wonderful mola mola. Also known as a sunfish or moonfish. The mola mola is high on the priority list for people who specifically come to dive in Lembongan. But how are we able to find these creatures? Due to a not so glamorous reason: parasites.
Weighing in at times the same weight as an adult rhinoceros, the mola mola is a giant home and feeding ground for multiple types of parasitic life. The common sunfish, Mola mola, are infamous for their impressive parasite load. Some 40 different genera of parasites have been recorded on this species alone. In fact, even their parasites have parasites. Since parasites often sport multiple hosts, they can offer valuable insight into mola interspecies associations. For instance, one mola parasite is the larval stage of a shark tapeworm so at some point the mola most likely falls prey to shark enabling this parasite to complete its lifecycle.
The mola mola is capable of swimming up to 800 meters below the ocean’s surface but can often be found floating at the surface. Scientists believe one of the reasons is to regulate their body temperature to help them withstand their feeding schedules in the cold deep sea. The second reason can be witnessed in the Nat Geo WILD video of the mola mola rising to the surface in order to have the sea gulls peck at their bodies and remove the parasites.
So why do the parasites help divers see the mola mola? Since the fish will often seek help from the common cleaner fish including butterflyfish, banner fish, and cleaner wrasse, divers can find them hanging out getting a cleaning. The sunfish is often not bothered by multiple divers while this “spa” treatment is happening and luckily these cleaner fish are found in shallow enough depths for divers to see.