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November 2002

Delve deeper into hot topics featured in NGM's November issue with help from Resources. Click on a link, pick up a periodical, browse through a book, and explore!
The Book Guy
Grey TabMore Book Guy
GeographicaWho Knew?It's A Mola
Field Dispatch
Field Dispatch

Research and Exploration

It's a Mola

Some describe it as a gigantic swimming head, "a giant pancake of a fish" called mola. Marine biologist Tierney Thys has been following them around since she became fascinated by fish biomechanics in 1991. She and colleagues around the world are now collecting skin samples and tagging the little-known animals—relatives of puffer fish—for satellite tracking, studying their movements, distribution, and genetics. Their goal is to learn how molas—or ocean sunfish—are affected by fisheries, both as catch and bycatch. Thys's love of nature's odd creatures is spreading quickly. Researchers in 15 countries have joined her cause, focusing their efforts and funds on getting to know the mola.

Web Links


Learn more about molas and link to a list of dozens of common names for this ocean sunfish around the globe.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium, a supporter of the ocean sunfish tagging project, currently has a mola in residence as part of its "Outer Bay Life" exhibit.

Mike Johnson Marine Natural History Photography
View a gallery of mola photographs and two videos of them swimming on this website. To assist with mola research, readers may report sightings via this site.

Taiwan Fisheries Research Institute
This organization supports and participates in mola research.

The Australian Museum Online
Learn about a 3,000-pound (1,400-kilogram) mola that was examined by the museum's staff in 1998.

Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation
In addition to supporting mola research, this foundation funds scientists whose work furthers the Lindberghs' vision of a balance between technological advancement and environmental preservation.

Sea Studios Foundation
The mola is a featured species in "The Shape of Life," an eight-part PBS series produced by the foundation.

Mola Mola
Learn about a mola tracking project in southern California.

National Geographic News
In an installment of the Earthpulse series, Tierney Thys comments on the amazing growth capacity of this gentle and curious fish.

Free World Map

Bennington, Sara. "Holy Mola," Blue Planet (Fall 2001), 8-10.

Carwardine, Mark. "Fishes," The Guinness Book of Animal Records. Guinness Publishing, 1995.

Eliot, John L. "Queerest Fish in the Sea? The Massive Mola." National Geographic (December 1994).

Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research. "Research: Tags of the Trade." Available online at

Thys, Tierney. "Swimming Heads," Natural History (August 1994), 36-38.

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