Ocean sunfish have a large body that is compressed and ovular. They are the largest bony fish, measuring up to 3.1 m in length, 4.26 m in height, and weighing up to 2235 kg (Hutchins, 2004; Humann and Deloach, 2002; Houghton et al., 2006). They are scale-less, and have a thick, rubbery skin and irregular patches of tubercles over their body (Hutchins, 2004; Wheeler, 1969; Smith, 1965). Notably, adult ocean sunfish do not have a caudal fin or caudal peduncle. They instead have a clavus, which is a truncated tail, used more like a rudder than for propulsion. The clavus reaches from the rear edge of the dorsal fin to the rear edge of the anal fin (Wheeler, 1969; Hutchins, 2004; Linnaeus, 1758). The dorsal and anal fins of ocean sunfish are tall, and their small pectoral fins point toward the dorsal fin (Hutchins, 2004). The dorsal fin has 15 to 18 soft rays, and the anal fin has 14 to 17 soft rays (Hutchins, 2004). They also have a small mouth with fused teeth that form a beak-like structure (Hutchins, 2004).
Ocean sunfish vary in coloration, though the head, back, tips of the anal and dorsal fins, and clavus are generally a mixture of dark grey-brown and dark silvery grey (Hutchins, 2004; Humann and Deloach, 2002; Ayling and Collins, 1982). They have a white belly and sometimes have white splotches on their fins and dorsal side (Ayling and Collins, 1982; Humann and Deloach, 2002). Adult ocean fish do not possess a lateral line, and only one gill opening is visible on each side, which is located near the base of the pectoral fins (Hutchins, 2004; Smith and Heemstra, 1986).
Range mass: 2235 (high) kg.
Range length: 3.1 (high) m.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry
- Linnaeus, C. 1758. Sistema Naturae, 10th Edition.
- Smith, M., P. Heemstra. 1986. Smith’s Sea Fishes. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.