Satellite Tracking and Site Fidelity of Short Ocean Sunfish, Mola ramsayi, in the Galapagos Islands

Tierney M. Thys, Alex R. Hearn, Kevin C. Weng, John P. Ryan, César Peñaherrera-Palma

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Ocean sunfishes, with their peculiar morphology, large size, and surface habits, are valuable assets in ecotourism destinations worldwide. This study investigates site fidelity and long-range movements of short ocean sunfish, Mola ramsayi (Giglioli 1883), at Punta Vicente Roca (PVR) off Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands. Five individuals were tracked between 32 and 733 days using ultrasonic receivers and transmitters. Two of the 5 were also tracked with towed pop-off satellite tags. One travelled to the equatorial front covering 2700 km in 53 days, with dive depths in the upper 360 m at temperatures between 9.2°C and 22°C. During its westward travel, dives extended to 1112 m (the deepest depth yet recorded for Molidae) into temperatures ranging between 4.5°C and 23.2°C. The remaining four individuals demonstrated site fidelity to PVR and were detected at the site between 128-1361 times for a total of 3557 reports. Forty-eight percent of the reports occurred during daytime hours and 52% after dark. Presumed cleaning session durations had a median of 15 minutes and a maximum of nearly 100 minutes. No other ultrasonic arrays around Galapagos or in the Eastern Pacific regional network recorded the presence of tagged individuals. These data are combined with tourist vessel sightings and submersible observations to confirm Punta Vicente Roca as an important sunfish hotspot.

Idioma originalInglés
Número de artículo7097965
PublicaciónJournal of Marine Biology
EstadoPublicada - 2017


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