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Wildlife Sightings Blog

 

Whale and Dolphin watching on the Isle of Mull

Sunfish

The largest of the bony fish, this species has the appearance of a flattened disc with no real tail, but they have large oar-shaped dorsal and ventral (or anal) fins. As a whole the species can reach lengths of 3.3metres, however the individuals seen around the UK tend to be slightly smaller, an average of 1.8metres.

Due to the large dorsal and the fact it is a relatively unknown species, Sunfish are occasionally mistaken for Basking Sharks as they often lie high up in the water column with the dorsal fin waving above the surface as in a Shark. They can also be seen on their side at the surface and in this position they will appear as a pale disc shape in the water.

A largely tropical fish, Sunfish come to the UK waters in the summer months it is likely that Sunfish come to our waters to feed on Jellyfish throughout the summer months. Their diet is also made up of Crustaceans, Squid, small fish and Eel Grass. The majority of the diet is nutritionally poor and therefore the sunfish has to consume large amounts to sustain its large size. The range of prey also shows that the fish feed at many levels, rather than just at the surface as once thought.

Sunfish are commonly seen basking on their side at the surface. There are a couple of possible reasons why they do this; the first is to warm up after a dive into the colder, deep water, the second is that they often get skin mites and by lying at the surface the sea-birds, especially Gulls will come and feed off the mites and clean the skin.

 

Last edited 11/02/2011