A long time ago
in a tropical place far, far away, a strange group of tailless
fishes appearedand the neighborhood has never been
the same since. . .
On-going fossil work
coupled with genetic sleuthing is slowly revealing the evolutionary
history of the magnificent Molidae.Fossil
jaw parts of the genus Eomola suggest this family descended
from coral reef fishes sometime in the middle Eocene– roughly
40 million years ago (Santini and Tyler, 2002). Since their
first appearance, sunfish have spread into every tropical and temperate ocean
While the Molidae
may appear primitive, they are in fact relative latecomers
to the fish world. Fishes first emerged over 500 million years
ago and the radiation leading to most modern fishes occurred
about 100 million years ago. It took another 50 million years
for Molidae to appear. In fact, molas are thought to be one
of the most recently derived fish groups in the sea.
occupy the same order (Tetraodontiformes) as do the puffers
and porcupine fishes. The name Tetraodontiformes refers to
the four fused teeth that comprise their characteristic beak.
While their inflatable relatives can defend themselves by sucking
in water and puffing up, molas suck and spit water primarily
as a means of manipulating prey items into manageable pieces.
Long claw like teeth in their throat help this process.
From D’Arcy Thompson’s On Growth and Form