Underwater photographer reveals incredible picture of alien-like ocean sunfish


Close encounter: Photojournalist Daniel Botelho came across the moon-shaped Mola mola while snapping pictures of blue whales off San Diego

You never know what you're going to find in an old folder: a long-forgotten Polaroid snapshot, a yellowed love letter, or in the case of a California-based underwater photographer, a rare image of a moon-shaped giant fish taken two years prior.
The image depicting the slow-moving, otherworldly Mola mola, or sunfish, was captured off San Diego by Daniel Botelho, and it became an instant hit after being posted last week on his Facebook page.
‘It got 1,000 'likes' in 36 hours,’ Botelho, an award-winning photojournalist who specializes in underwater photography, told GrindTV.

Odd creatures: The bullet-shaped sunfish can measure 14 feet and weigh as much as 5,000lbs, making them the world's heaviest bony fish

By Wednesday, the number of ‘likes’ and shares had grown to 3,068 and 2,387, respectively.
Botelho explained that he stumbled upon the mola in July of 2010 while on a mission to photograph blue whales. But the rare shot was somehow misplaced in a folder of non-used images, and he forgot all about it.
Botelho rediscovered the picture only recently while planning another blue whale photo-shoot. ‘It is so funny, I wasted that image and after two years I found it, posted it, and it becomes viral,’ Botelho said.
While the sunfish are tame and appear listless, they're difficult to photograph because they are deceptively fast and generally do not like when divers come near them.

‘There were more than five in the same spot, but once I got in the water, as stealthily as I could, they all went out fast,’ Botelho explained. ‘But one specific fish stopped to check what I was, and God knows why the fish decided to follow me. People in the boat said it seemed like a dog following his owner.’
The photographer depicted in the shot had hoped to snap a picture of Botelho next to the sunfish, but instead he became the subject to lend perspective as to how large and molas can be.
Dr. Tierney Thys, the founder and director of the Ocean Sunfish Tagging and Research Program, told National Geographic that the mola is the world’s heaviest bony fish featuring a fish head and flattened body.
The sunfish can measure 14 feet and weigh as much as 5,000lbs, and they inhabit tropical and temperate oceans.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium, in a species description, states: ‘Ocean sunfish, or molas, look like the invention of a mad scientist.'
They feed primarily on jellies but will also munch on squid and small fish. This summer, large number of molas have been spotted off California, which could be attributed to the increase in the population of gelatinous creatures called salps in the water.

source: dailymail