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Journal of Marine Biology
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 7097965, 10 pages
Research Article

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

1California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA, USA
2Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Galapagos Science Center, Quito, Ecuador
3University of California, Davis, One Shields Ave., Davis, CA, USA
4Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, VA, USA
5Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA, USA
6Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador, Portoviejo, Manabí, Ecuador

Correspondence should be addressed to Tierney M. Thys

Received 29 January 2017; Accepted 4 April 2017; Published 4 May 2017

Academic Editor: Jakov Dulčić

Copyright © 2017 Tierney M. Thys et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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.