The Giant Sunfish, also called the Ocean Sunfish, is a very distinctive looking fish.  Its body color ranges from silvery-grey, to white, to brown, and it is very round, but also very flat, like a coin.  This shape is called laterally compressed – the fish looks like a normal fish that has been flattened like a pancake.  It resembles a large fish head with fins, and sometimes the tail is so small it appears non-existent.  Adult sunfish can grow to weigh 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs), and be 1.5 m (5.9 ft) long on average, although they have been known to reach up to 3.3 m (10.8 ft) long and 2,300 kg ( 5,100 lbs).

 

 

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Illustration: Kaitlin Asson

 

Key identifying characteristics

1. Laterally compressed body

2. Small, crescent-shaped tail fin (when present)

3. Small pectoral fins located roughly in the middle of the body

Examples

 

 

A Giant Sunfish swimming the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary in CA.  Photo credit: NOAA

A Giant Sunfish swimming the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary in CA. Photo credit: NOAA

Giant Sunfish with a mottled body in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Photo credit: NOAA/ OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP).

Giant Sunfish with a mottled body in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean off Florida. Photo credit: NOAA/ OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Giant Sunfish that washed up on the beach near Norfolk.  Photo credit: Rupert Smith

A Giant Sunfish that washed up on the beach near Norfolk. Photo credit: Rupert Smith

A nearly 3m long Giant Sunfish washed up on Farewell Spit, Golden Bay, New Zealand.  Note the size of the person’s hand next to the fish eye. Photo credit: Farewll Spit Eco Tours.

A nearly 3m long Giant Sunfish washed up on Farewell Spit, Golden Bay, New Zealand. Note the size of the person’s hand next to the fish eye. Photo credit: Farewll Spit Eco Tours.