Sharptail Sunfish, Masturus lanceolatus (Liénard 1840)

Other Names: Point-tailed Sunfish, Trunkfish

A Sharptail Sunfish, Masturus lanceolatus. Source: H. Sugiyama. License: All rights reserved


A rare but widely distributed sunfish with a very deep, oval-shaped body and a distinctly pointed extension on the middle of the clavus (tail). Unlike other large ocean sunfishes, the margin of the clavus is not scalloped.

Video of a Sharptail Sunfish in the Galapagos - taken by The Lindblad Expeditions team aboard the National Geographic Polaris.

Video of a Sharptail Sunfish accidentally captured in Cobb midwater trawl by fishery scientists operating in waters off American Samoa.

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Masturus lanceolatus in Fishes of Australia, accessed 15 Jul 2020,

Sharptail Sunfish, Masturus lanceolatus (Liénard 1840)

More Info


Known in Australia from north-eastern Australia to off Rottnest Island, Western Australia.

Elsewhere, widely distributed in the oceanic surface waters of all tropical and temperate regions.


Dorsal-fin rays: 15-19; Anal-fin rays: 15-19

Body very deep (approx. 55-66% SL), oval in profile, posterior edge nearly vertical, sides greatly compressed, flat. Head large (approx. 31-37% SL), dorsal profile above or behind eyes not distinctly concave; eyes small; mouth small, forming oval closure; teeth in each jaw fused into two beak-like plates; small gill opening on each side anterior to pectoral fin. 
Scales absent;  skin very thick and leathery, covered with horny, rough textured denticles; lateral line not apparent. 
Single short based high dorsal fin, situated at posterior extreme of body; anal fin similar to and opposite dorsal fin, but with a distinctly shorter base; caudal fin replaced by rudder-like clavus fringing posterior margin of body between dorsal and anal fins, clavus with prominent pointed extension just above centre of posterior margin, at least as long as head, margin of clavus not scalloped. Pectoral fins small and rounded. Ventral fins absent.


Reaches more than 3 m in total length.


Adults are a uniform dull brown or greyish-brown with whitish patches developing after death. Larvae are blue above, white below.


Like other species in the family Molidae, the Sharptail Sunfish feeds mostly on jellyfishes.


Like other sunfishes, the sharptail sunfish, passes through a series of spiny spherical forms in its larval and post-larval phases. Little else is known of its biology, which is presumed to be similar to that of other species in the family Molidae. This species is encountered much less frequently than Mola species.
Image of a juvenile Sharptail Sunfish trawled from a depth of 40 metres in the Coral Sea, northeast of Queensland.

Species Citation

Orthagoriscus lanceolatus Lienard, 1840, Rev. Zool.: 291. Type locality - Mauritius.


Dianne J. Bray

Sharptail Sunfish, Masturus lanceolatus (Liénard 1840)


Bray, D.J. 2008. Family Molidae. pp. 858-861 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp.

Fraser-Brunner, A. 1951. The ocean sunfishes (family Molidae). Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Historical Series 1(6): 89-121 figs 1-18

Glover, C.J.M. 1994. Family Molidae. pp. 915-920, figs 808-810 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs.

Heemstra, P.C., 1986. Molidae. p. 907-908. In M.M. Smith and P.C. Heemstra (eds.) Smiths' sea fishes. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Molidae. pp. 3966-3968 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218.

Liénard, R.P. 1840. Description d'une nouvelle espèce du genre mole (Orthagoriscus Schn.) découverte á l'île Maurice. Revue et Magasin de Zoologie (Paris) 3: 291-292.

Seitz, A.C., K.C. Weng, A.M. Boustany & B.A. Block. 2002. Behavior of a sharptail mola in the Gulf of Mexico. J. Fish Biol. 60: 1597–1602.

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37470003

Depth:0-5000 metres

Habitat:Pelagic, mesopelagic, oceanic

Max Size:337 cm TL; 2000 kg

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map