Christian Long

Tierney Thys: Swims with the Giant Sunfish in the Open Ocean

In TED Talks on April 12, 2010 at 11:35 am

Reflection by RACHEL M.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Tierney Thys:  Swims with the Giant Sunfish in the Open Ocean

Upon reading the title of this video you might assume Tierney Thys has gone on some kind of dive of discovery with the Giant Ocean Sunfish. You would be correct in assuming that, but what you may not realize upon first inspection that her’s is a tale of fascination and passion with an incredible fish. It is truely a stimulating view of a creature nature set apart.

Life began in the ocean, and over the millenia this fish has evolved into a creature swimming apart from the rest, both literally and metaphorically. This odd man out seems to prove that strange adaptations can be exponentially beneficial in more than one way.

When acquainted with the loner Giant Ocean Sunfish (referred to as Mola Mola in this lovely video) you can say many things, but one is for certain: It is odd. The sunfish is an enormous creature often several feet across and weighing over 5,000 pounds. It is a fairly flat animal lacking what we would consider a tail fin. The solitary sunfish can be seen drifting through the open ocean or seen basking in the sunlight, for which it is named. Soaking up rays, they may seem lazy, and some even mistake them for dead, but as this video states, they are rather quite industrious and active in ways you wouldn’t expect. For instance, overfishing, pollution, and climate change are creating seas that favor low energy forms of life like jelly fish. But never fear, the sunfish has your back. It has adapted to thrive on jelly fish and while feeding on the little jelly creatures increases 6 million times in body weight from the time of hatching. Their enormous appetite for cnidarians proves indispensable in controlling the jellyfish population which can suffocate other forms of ocean life. So in a way, the Mola holds a large part of the ocean’s balance on it’s shoulders, or rather in it’s stomach. I think we owe it a thank you.

All thanks aside, the gentle giant hold many records in the animal kingdom (for example largest bony fish) and is a swimming marvel, but has also become a sort of unifying force for people around the world. Tierney Thy’s tremendous passion for the goofy fish is very apparent in this video, and this same passion has sparked responses from many different cultures and religions all backing the sunfish. She was happily surprised to observe:

“Everyone [seemed to share] a love and interest in the ocean… [all these different people were] united by a love of life.”

The simple existence of a creature like the sunfish provides a common fascination for many that in turn help collaborate and raise awareness of the sunfish and the ocean’s major threats. It seems one fish has created a domino effect of awareness that helps to illuminate the problems of over-fishing, pollution, and climate change, and has become a stepping stone for saving the oceans.

As Shakespeare once said, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin” and it is undoubtedly true in this case. One enchanting creature has become a force of nature, bringing together people across the globe all sharing a vivacious love of life.

If you want to get to know the Mola mola more, see Tierney Thy’s site:


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