Hoodwinker Sunfish, Mola tecta Nyegaard, Sawai, Gemmell, et al. 2017

A Hoodwinker Sunfish, Mola tecta, stranded in the shallows in Port Phillip, Victoria. Source: Martin F. Gomon / Museums Victoria. License: CC by Attribution

A greyish to dark brown ocean sunfish becoming paler below, with irregular mottled whitish spots and markings.
Unlike other Mola species, the Hoodwinker Sunfish does not develop a protruding snout, head bump or chin bump, and lacks swollen ridges on the body - rather juveniles and adults have similar body proportions. The clavus has a rounded margin and is separated into upper and lower parts that are connected by a small flexible indented piece of skin, termed the “back-fold”.
Video of a Hoodwinker Sunfish off Chile.
Video of a Hoodwinker Sunfish in Monterey Bay, California

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Mola tecta in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 Dec 2023, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/5366

Hoodwinker Sunfish, Mola tecta Nyegaard, Sawai, Gemmell, et al. 2017

More Info


New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia. Elsewhere the species occurs in temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere, around New Zealand (mostly around the South Island), off South Africa and off southern Chile. The species has also been recorded from California, USA, and off Peru. 
Like other ocean sunfish, individuals are likely to dive hundreds of metres to feed. Following deep mesopelagic dives, individuals warm their bodies by basking on their sides at the surface.


Dorsal fin 16-18; Anal fin 13-15; Pectoral fin 11-13.
Clavus meristics: 15–17 fin rays (13–15 principal, 2 minor), 5–7 ossicles, paraxial ossicles separate. Clavus morphology: prominent smooth band back-fold, rounded clavus edge with an indent. Body scale morphology: raised conical midpoints, non-branching. 
Body scales sparsely set, conical, varying in size without branching tips.
M. tecta does not develop a protruding snout, head bump or chin bump, and has a short dorsolateral ridge extending to the rear of the pectoral fin; body proportions remain similar with growth.


Feeds on salps and siphonophores (based on gut contents of several specimens). Like Mola mola, the Hoodwinker Sunfish likely undertakes forays to mesopelagic depths to feed on colonial animals such as siphonophores.


Much of what is known about this species is gained from studying specimens that have washed ashore.

Similar Species

Mola tecta differs from the other ocean sunfish species is having a a rounded snout, no head-bump or chin-bump, a short dorso-lateral keel, no ventro-lateral keel, a relatively elongate body, and a rounded edge to the clavus with a smooth indent on the middle.


The specific name tecta is from the Latin tectus (= disguised, hidden), as this species evaded discovery for nearly three centuries, despite the keen interest among early sunfish taxonomists and the continued attention these curious fish receive.
The common name, ‘Hoodwinker’, pertains to the figurative meaning ‘trickster, deceiving by disguise’.

Species Citation

Mola tecta Nyegaard, Sawai, Gemmell, Gillum, Loneragan, Yamanoue & Stewart 2017, Zool J. Linnean Soc. zlx040. Type locality: North Taranaki Bight, west coast North Island, New Zealand (38°25.5′S 174°9.0′E), trawl, 78 m.


Bray, D.J. 2020


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Australian Faunal Directory

Hoodwinker Sunfish, Mola tecta Nyegaard, Sawai, Gemmell, et al. 2017


Nyegaard, M., Loneragan, N., Hall, S., Andrew, J., Sawai, E. & Nyegaard, M. 2018. Giant jelly eaters on the line: Species distribution and bycatch of three dominant sunfishes in the Southwest Pacific. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 207: 1-5 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2018.03.017

Nyegaard, M. & Sawai, E. 2018. Species identification of sunfish specimens (Genera Mola and Masturus, Family Molidae) from Australian and New Zealand natural history museum collections and other local sources. Data in Brief 19: 2404-2415 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2018.07.015

Nyegaard, M., Sawai, E., Gemmell, N., Gillum, J., Loneragan, N.R., Yamanoue, Y., Stewart, A.L. 2017. Hiding in broad daylight: molecular and morphological data reveal a new ocean sunfish species (Tetraodontiformes: Molidae) that has eluded recognition. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 182(3): 631-658 https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlx040

Yoshita, Y., Yamanoue, Y., Sagara, K., Nishibori, M., Kuniyoshi, H., Umino, T., Sakai, Y., Hashimoto, H. & Gushima, K. 2009. Phylogenetic relationships of two Mola sunfishes (Tetraodontiformes: Molidae) occurring around the coasts of Japan, with notes on their geographical distribution and morphological characteristics. Ichthyological Research 56: 232–244 https://doi.org/10.1007/s10228-008-0089-3 (as Mola sp. C)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37470005

Habitat:Pelagic, mesopelagic, oceanic

Max Size:242 cm TL

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