The ocean sunfish Mola mola: insights into distribution, abundance and behaviour in the Irish and Celtic Seas

Jonathan Houghton, T.K. Doyle, J. Davenport, G.C. Hays

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Here we provide baseline data on the distribution and abundance of Mola mola within the Irish and Celtic Seas, made during aerial surveys from June to October during 2003-2005. These data were considered in conjunction with concurrent observations of three potential jellyfish prey species found throughout the region: Rhizostoma octopus, Chrysaora hysoscella and Cyanea capillata. A total area of 7850 km(2) was surveyed over the three years with an observed abundance of 68 sunfish giving a density of 0.98 ind/100 km(2). Although modest, these findings highlight that the species is more common than once thought around Britain and Ireland and an order of magnitude greater than the other apex jellyfish predator found in the region, the leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea). furthermore, the distribution of sunfish sightings was inconsistent with the extensive aggregations of Rhizostoma octopus found throughout the study area. The modelled distributions of predator-prey co-occurrence (using data for all three jellyfish species) was less than the observed co-occurrence with the implication that neither jellyfish nor sunfish were randomly distributed but co-occurred more in the same areas than expected by chance. Finally, observed sunfish were typically small (similar to 1 in or less) and seen to either bask or actively swim at the surface.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1237-1243
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
Volume86
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science

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