hays-oceansunfish-2006.pdf (541.84 kB)
The ocean sunfish Mola mola : insights into distribution, abundance and behaviour in the Irish and Celtic Seas
journal contributionposted on 2006-10-01, 00:00 authored by J Houghton, T Doyle, J Davenport, Graeme HaysGraeme Hays
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 km2 was surveyed over the three years with an observed abundance of 68 sunfish giving a density of 0.98 ind/100 km2. 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]1 m or less) and seen to either bask or actively swim at the surface.