1. Marine Biodiversity Records, page 1 of 5. # Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 2010
doi:10.1017/S1755267210000588; Vol. 3; e69; 2010 Published online
Stranding of Masturus lanceolatus
(Actinopterygii: Molidae) in the estuary of
the Una River, Pernambuco, Brazil: natural
and anthropogenic causes
m.e. araujo1, e.c. silva-falcao1, p.d. falcao2, v.m. marques1 and i.r. joca3
’ ~ ~
Departamento de Oceanograﬁa, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, 50730-540 Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil, 2Veterinary
(voluntary researcher) and 3Grupo de Ictiologia MarinhaTropical, 50730-540 Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil
Molidae are tropical marine teleosts that occur in all oceans. Among the species described, Masturus lanceolatus is considered
rare on the Brazilian coast, with only four records found in scientiﬁc publications. The present study reports the ﬁrst occur-
rence of this species for the coast of the State of Pernambuco (north-eastern Brazil) and discusses the possible causes of its
being stranded. The specimen was found alive in the estuary of the Una River in the city of Sao Jose da Coroa Grande on
the southern coast of the state. The ﬁsh was unknown to the local community of ﬁshermen, who considered it a ‘bad
omen’. The occurrence led to an environmental education project in the community carried out by members of the
Tropical Marine Ichthyology Group, which carried out an inspection, documentation, analysis of external injuries and collec-
tion of viscera for the subsequent histological analysis. After undergoing taxidermy, the specimen was donated to the Una
Museum. Analysis revealed that the ﬁsh suffered from an intense inﬂammatory process of the liver caused by polycystosis
of nematodes and Trypanorhyncha, which resulted in malnutrition, as observed by the low body weight. Moreover, a
likely stranding left the specimen more vulnerable to different species of shark, which mutilated it, hindering its locomotion.
This ﬁsh appears to have drifted and was thrown against the reefs near the estuary before its stranding.
Keywords: sunﬁsh, river, ﬁrst record, ﬁshermen, north-eastern Brazil
Submitted 9 March 2010; accepted 28 April 2010
INTRODUCTION These ﬁsh are frequently infected with the larvae of worms
(Arru et al., 1991) and are well-known for their impressive
The family Molidae comprises species of epipelagic ﬁsh com- parasite load. Forty different genera of parasites have been
monly known as molas or ocean sunﬁsh, which are distributed reported in a single species (Volgelinest, 2006).
in warm, tropical waters in all oceans (Matsuura, 2002). Only Masturus lanceolatus, commonly known as the sharptail
three species were described for this family: Ranzania laevis mola, has broad distribution in the western Atlantic, occurring
(Pennant, 1776), Mola mola (Linnaeus, 1758) and Masturus from Nova Scotia to south-eastern Brazil (Klein-MacPhee,
lanceolatus Lienard, 1840. A recent genetic and biogeographi- 2002; Menezes, 2003). Records of occurrence in Brazil,
cal study conﬁrmed the existence of a fourth species, Mola however, are rare and the species is only cited for the states
ramsayi (Giglioli, 1883), which is restricted to the southern ˜ ´
of Sao Paulo, Ceara (Figueiredo & Menezes, 2000) and
hemisphere (Parenti, 2003; Bass et al., 2005). Despite their Bahia. Only two specimens are deposited in ichthyologic col-
broad distribution, studies on the biology of these species lections in Brazil (Lopes et al., 2004).
are rare in Brazil and the majority involve the analysis of Recently Ahid et al. (2009) published an article on a speci-
individuals stranded on the shore either dead or severely men of Mola mola stranded in the Brazilian State of Rio Grande
debilitated (Lopes et al., 2004; Ahid et al., 2009). do Norte. However, the photograph clearly shows the clavus in
Morphologically, molas are considered the heaviest living the shape of a lance, which characterizes it as M. lanceolatus.
marine teleosts and have a very tall, laterally ﬂat body. The The aims of the present study are to analyse the possible
dorsal and anal ﬁns are used for propulsion and the caudal causes of the stranding of a sharptail mola and record the ﬁrst
ﬁn is modiﬁed in a structure called a clavus. The mouth is occurrence of M. lanceolatus for the coast of Pernambuco
very small and the teeth are united in the form of a beak State, Brazil.
(Parenti, 2003). Molidae feed mainly on zooplankton, but
also jellyﬁsh, algae, crustaceans and ﬁsh (Parenti, 2003);
juveniles feed on benthic invertebrate (Matsuura, 2002). MATERIALS AND METHODS
Characterization of the area
M.E. Araujo ˜ ´
The estuary of the Una River is located at Sao Jose da Coroa
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Grande on the southern coast of the State of Pernambuco,
2. 2 ’
m.e. arau jo et al.
123 km from Recife (State capital). Its margins are colonized by 0900 on 15 September 2006. The ﬁsh was being tossed by
mangrove forests. Tidal plains form at the mouth of the river, the waves in the surf zone. It was quite debilitated, but
along with a sandbar parallel with the coast. Reefs are abundant still alive. The ﬁsh was unknown to the ﬁshermen and their
throughout the coast and are located approximately 400 m from colleagues, who wanted to either burn or bury it, thinking
the mouth of the river. The stranding occurred on the left margin that it was a ‘bad omen’. Native ﬁshermen called the
of the delta approximately 120 m from the coastline at the coor- team from the Tropical Marine Ichthyology Group (IMAT)
dinates 8852′ 42.18′′ S 35808′ 17.85′′ W (Figure 1). to help them. Two researchers of IMAT, coordinated by
M.E. Araujo, together with other researchers, including the
Description of specimen and external injuries authors, went to the site to: (1) identify the specimen; (2) reas-
sure the population; and (3) conserve the ﬁsh on ice until the
The examination of the external injuries was initially arrival of the taxidermist (I.R. Joca). The IMAT acquired the
performed at the stranding site and subsequently through specimen and donated it to the Una Museum, where it is cur-
photographs taken on the day of the capture. Investigations rently on display (Figure 2).
were made into the causes of the injuries through a compara- The occurrence was reported by national newspapers and
tive analysis of data published in scientiﬁc journals. For television news due to the fact that this ﬁsh is rare, not only
the identiﬁcation of shark bites, specialist Dr Paulo to the local population of the small beach, but also to the
Guilherme Vasconcelos de Oliveira, adjunct professor of the scientiﬁc community.
Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, was consulted, It is possible that the specimen described here died prema-
along with bibliographic resources. turely, as its age was estimated at 20 years, using a calculation
based on the von Bertalanffy curve presented by Liu et al.
Preparation of histological slides (2009). According to the authors, M. lanceolatus longevity is
estimated at 105 and 82 years for females and males, respect-
After being collected and ﬁxed in 10% formalin, fragments
ively. While molas have k-strategie characteristics, such as
were removed from the oesophagus, stomach, intestine, liver
slow growth and late maturation, they also have the greatest
and heart (auricle and ventricle). The samples were submitted
fecundity among existing vertebrates, with as many as
to routine histological techniques. Tissues were dehydrated in
300,000,000 eggs (Parenti, 2003).
an increasing concentration of alcohol, diaphanized in xylol,
The specimen described here was male, measured 170 cm
embedded in parafﬁn, cut on a microtome to micro-sections
and weighed 78 kg. The three other specimens found in
5 mm in thickness and stained with haematoxylin –eosin
Bahia (Lopes et al., 2004), Sao Paulo (Figueiredo &
(HE) (Maia, 1979) for mounting on slides.
Menezes, 2000) and Rio Grande do Norte (Ahid et al.,
2009) measured 112 cm, 170 cm and 93 cm and weighed
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 50 kg, 119 kg and 24 kg, respectively. Comparing the body
mass index (BMI) of these specimens, the ﬁsh from
The specimen of Masturus lanceolatus was found by three Pernambuco was the thinnest (BMI ¼ 27) and the specimen
local ﬁshermen in the estuary of the Una River at about from Sao Paulo was the fattest (BMI ¼ 41.2).
Along with the low body weight, a set of factors suggest the
reasons for the stranding: (1) high parasite load in the liver; (2)
net entanglement followed by stress; (3) susceptibility to shark
attacks, with mutilation of the ﬁns; (4) locomotion difﬁculty
stemming from mutilated ﬁns; and (5) body striking the
reefs that form a barrier before arriving at the site where the
specimen was found.
The histopathological study of fragments from the oeso-
phagus, stomach, intestine and heart revealed no noteworthy
alterations. The liver had numerous cists from nematodes and
cestodes from the order Trypanorhyncha in the hepatic
Fig. 1. Location of stranding of Masturus lanceolatus in the estuary of the Una ˜ ´
Fig. 2. Specimen of Masturus lanceolatus on display at Una Museum (Sao Jose
River, Pernambuco, Brazil. da Coroa Grande, PE) following taxidermy.
3. stranding of sunfish in the una estuary, brazil 3
Fig. 3. Some results of the histopathological study of the specimen of Masturus lanceolatus, stranding on Una River, Pernambuco: (A) macroscopic view of liver
with numerous cysts from parasites; (B) worm polycytosis in hepatic parenchyma (magniﬁcation: 10×); (C) leukocyte inﬁltrate (magniﬁcation: 10×); (D) dilation
of artery (left side) and encapsulated parasite (right side) (magniﬁcation: 10×); (E) transversal concentric hyaline formation similar to encapsulated nematode
(magniﬁcation: 40×); (F) macroscopic view of cestode from the order Trypanorhyncha.
parenchyma, with perforation of the stroma of the organ, hepatic parenchyma, leukocyte inﬁltrates (Figure 3C) and
allowing a view of the cysts externally (Figure 3A). On dilation of arteries (Figure 3D).
average, each cyst contained one parasite, as reported by Encysted nematodes inhabit different tissues in ﬁsh,
Rodrigues et al. (2002) in ﬁsh from the family Characidae. causing cell disorganization and a variable amount of phago-
The liver exhibited parenchyma loss due to the presence of cyte cells and lymphocyte inﬁltrates (Eiras & Rego, 1989). The
worm polycytosis (Figure 3B). Several transversal concentric erratic migration of nematode larvae in viscera such as the
hyaline formations similar to nematodes were observed liver is not uncommon (Roberts, 2001). In the intermediate
(Figure 3E). The cysts were enveloped by a ﬁbrous capsule host, the larvae are found either ﬂoating freely or encapsulated
of conjunctive tissue and some exhibited invasion of the in the abdominal cavity or adhered to the liver (Moravec,
Fig. 4. External injuries on specimen of Masturus lanceolatus captured live in the estuary of Una River (Sao Jose da Coroa Grande, PE). (A, B) Scratches; (E & H)
rashes; (G) x-shape mark and linear cut with knife; (C, D & F) shark bites.
4. 4 ’
m.e. arau jo et al.
1998), as found in the liver of the specimen described here. this marine zone where reefs are concentrated, over which
Post mortem studies of the Mola mola revealed multifocal molas pass when needing to clean off ectoparasites, which is
hepatic and renal granulomas and hepatic cysts of cestodes performed by ﬁsh from the families Chaetodontidae and
(Volgelnest, 2006). Digenetic hemiurid and plerocercoid para- Pomacanthidae (Konow et al., 2006). Although the coast of
sites from Trypanorhyncha were recorded in the specimen of Pernambuco has a large area of reefs, this is the ﬁrst record
M. lanceolatus mistakenly identiﬁed as M. mola (Ahid et al., of this species for this area. Thus, it is believed that the injuries
2009). Adults and larvae of species from this order are often supposedly caused by the specimen striking the reefs occurred
found in the gastrointestinal apparatus of elasmobranchs after the shark bites, which is the main factor attributed to its
and a number of teleost species (Campbell & Beveridge, stranding.
1994; Knoff et al., 2004, Sao Clemente et al., 2004, Dias
et al., 2009), as found in the specimen of M. lanceolatus
described here. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Although Campos et al. (2008) state that extensive eosino-
philia is not usual with the inﬂammatory reaction of host ﬁsh The authors are grateful to the ﬁshermen Amaro Tenorio, ´
to parasites, the intensity of encapsulated parasites in the ´
Amaro Junior and Valnencir Ferreira; to Luciano Silva who
specimen of M. lanceolatus led to various points of leukocyte notiﬁed us of the stranding, thereby keeping the mola from
inﬁltrates, thereby characterizing an inﬂammatory process. being buried or burned; to IMAT biologists Leonardo Bruto
This condition may have led to the initial debility of the speci- and Fernando Melo for having conserved the specimen,
men, making it an easy target for predation or ﬁshing nets. photographed it on the day of capture and interviewed the
Fishing net marks in the form of an ‘x’ were found on the ﬁshermen; to Bertrando Bernardino, Ricardo G. Ferreira, J.
epidermis of the specimen (Figure 4G), revealing that the ﬁsh Barbosa de Andrade and his wife for the logistic and ﬁnancial
must have been imprisoned in a ﬁshing net and suffered stress ´ ´
support; to J. Carlos Tenorio, Diogo Tenorio, Jailton Batista
and trauma, which further aggravated its state of health and and Lucilo Marinho for help with the transportation, main-
enabled attacks from predators and parasites. Accidental tenance and taxidermy of the specimen; and to the Brazilian
entanglement in ﬁshing gear is one of the main threats to fostering agency CNPq for the grant given to the ﬁrst author.
mola populations, as species from the family are often
reported as by-catch in lone-line ﬁsheries (Joung et al.,
2005) and drift nets (Akiol et al., 2005). REFERENCES
Both recent and old shark bites of different shapes and
origins were found during the external analysis of the speci- Ahid S.M.M., Filgueira K.D., Fonseca Z.A.A.S., Soto-Blanco B. and
men. One bite mark was typical of some species of cigar ˆ
Oliveira M.F. (2009) Ocorrencia de parasitismo em Mola mola
shark from the genus Isistius. The specimen had a circular ´
(Linnaeus, 1758) por metazoarios no litoral do Rio Grande do
oriﬁce that was apparently recent, as the skin that covered Norte, Brasil. Acta Veterinaria Brasilica 3, 43–47.
the area was still attached to the upper margin of the injury Akiol O., Erdem M., Unal V. and Ceyham T. (2005) Investigations on
(Figure 4D). The concentration of bites on the sides of the drift-net ﬁshery for swordﬁsh (Xiphias gladius L.) in the Aegean Sea.
body was likely due to the fact that these areas are the Turkish Journal of Veterinary and Animal Sciences 29, 1225–1231.
largest and most easily accessed in this type of attack (Souto
Arru E., Garippa G. and Sanna E. (1991) Molicola horridus in Luvaris
et al., 2007). These sharks may be considered temporary ecto-
imperialis and Mola mola. Bollettino della Societa Italiana di
parasites of oceanic ﬁsh, pinnipids and cetaceans (Perrin & Patologia Ittica 5, 89–91.
Hohn, 1994; Miyazaki & Perrin, 1995; Heithaus, 2001; Silva
Jr et al., 2007). Bass A.L., Dewar H., Thys T., Streelman J.T. and Karl S.A. (2005)
Other marks from sharks were much more violent: two on Evolutionary divergence among lineages of the ocean sunﬁsh family,
Molidae (Tetraodontiformes). Marine Biology 148, 405–414.
the dorsal ﬁn, with the basal bite more recent thare the upper
(Figure 4C); and another mutilating bite on the anal ﬁn Campbell R.A. and Beveridge I. (1994) Order Trypanorhyncha Diesing,
(Figure 4F). In a period of 14 years, there have been 53 1863. In Khalil L.F., Jones A. and Bray R.A. (eds) Keys to the cestode
shark attacks on humans along the coast of Pernambuco parasites of vertebrates. Cambridge: CAB International, pp. 51–148.
by the bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) and tiger shark Campos C.M., Moraes J.R.E. and Moraes F.R. (2008) Histopatologia de
(Galeocerdo cuvier) that attacked the legs and buttocks of ´
fıgado, rim e baco de Piaractus mesopotamicus, Prochilodus lineatus e
swimmers (Hazin et al., 2008). It is likely that the attack on ´
Pseudoplatystoma fasciatum parasitados por myxosporıdios, captura-
the mola was from these species, as they are aggressive and ter- dos no rio Aquidauana, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brasil. Revista
ritorial and are found throughout the entire coast of ´
Brasileira de Parasitologia Veterinaria 17, 200–205.
Pernambuco. Clemente S.C.S., Knoff M., Padovani R.E.S., Lima F.C. and Gomes D.C.
With its dorsal and anal ﬁns mutilated by shark attacks, the ´
(2004) Cestoides trypanorhyncha parasitos de congro-rosa, Genypterus
mola had swimming difﬁculties that caused profound rashes ´
brasiliensis Regan, 1903 comercializados nos municıpios de Niteroi e ´
in the areas of the insertion of the caudal and pectoral ﬁns ´
Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Revista Brasileira de Parasitologia Veteterinaria
(Figure 4E & H). Under these morpho-physiological con- 13, 97–102.
ditions, the specimen must have remained adrift and, upon Dias F.J.E., Clemente S.C.S. and Knoff M. (2009) Cestoides ´
approaching the coast, suffered a number of scratches ´
Trypanorhyncha parasitos de peroa, Balistes capriscus Gmelin, 1789
(Figure 4A, B ) from the reefs near the estuary. comercializados no estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Revista
Although it can live at depths of 670 m (Lopes et al., 2004), ˆ ´
Brasileira de Ciencia Veterinaria 16, 19–21.
M. lanceolatus is a pelagic species that spends most of its Eiras J.J. and Rego A.A. (1989) Histologia em peixes resultante de infec-
time in depths of less than 200 m and prefers waters with ¸˜ ´ ¸˜
coes parasitarias. Publicacoes do Instituto de Zoologia Dr. Augusto
temperatures greater than 208C (Seitz et al., 2002). It is in ´
Nobrega 208, 1–12.
5. stranding of sunfish in the una estuary, brazil 5
Figueiredo J.L. and Menezes N.A. (2000) Manual de Peixes Marinhos do Miyazaki N. and Perrin W.F. (1995) Rought-toothed dolphin Steno bre-
Sudeste do Brasil, VI. Teleostei (5). Museu de Zoologia da Universidade danensis (Lesson, 1828). In Ridgway S.H. and Harrison S.R. (eds)
de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 116 pp. Handbook of marine mammals. London: Academic Press, pp. 1–21.
Hazin F.H.V., Burgess G.H. and Carvalho F.C. (2008) A shark attack Moravec F. (1998) Nematodes of freshwater ﬁshes of the neotropical region.
outbreak off Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil: 1992–2006. Bulletin of Prague: Academia.
Marine Science 82, 199 –212.
Parenti P. (2003) Family Molidae Bonaparte 1832—molas or ocean sun-
Heithaus M. (2001) Predator –prey and competitive interactions between ﬁshes. Annotated Checklists of Fishes 18, 1 –9.
sharks (order Selachii) and dolphins (suborder Odontoceti): a review.
Perrin W.F. and Hohn A.A. (1994) Pantropical spotted dolphin Stenella
Journal of Zoology 253, 53–68.
attenuata. In Ridgway S.H. and Harrison S.R. (eds) Handbook of
Joung S.J., Liu K.M., Liao Y.Y. and Hsu H.H. (2005) Observed by-catch marine mammals. London: Academic Press, pp. 71–98.
of Taiwanese tuna longline ﬁshery in the South Atlantic Ocean.
Roberts R.J. (2001) Fish pathology, 3rd edition London: W.B. Saunders.
Journal of the Fisheries Society of Taiwan 32, 69–77.
Rodrigues E.L., Ranzani Paiva M.J.T. and Santos A.A. (2002) Alteracoes
Klein-MacPhee G. (2002) Molidae. In Collette B.B. and Klein-MacPhee ´ ´
histopatologicas em fıgado de dourado Salminus maxillosus
G. (eds) Bigelow and Schroeder’s ﬁshes of the Gulf of Maine, 3rd
Valenciennes, 1840, (Osteichthyes, Characidae) causadas por
edition Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, pp. 603–607.
Neocucullanus neocucullanus Travassos, Artigas & Pereira 1828
Knoff M., Clemente S.C.S., Pinto R.M., Lanfredi R.M. and Gomes (Nematoda). Acta Scientiarum 24, 455–459.
D.C. (2004) Taxonomic reports of Otobothrioidea (Eucestoda,
Seitz A.C., Weng K.C., Boustany A.M. and Block B.A. (2002) Behaviour
Trypanorhyncha) from elasmobranch ﬁshes of the southern coast
of a sharptail mola in the Gulf of Mexico. Journal of Fish Biology 60,
off Brazil. Memoria do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz 99, 31–36.
Konow N., Fitzpatrick F. and Barnett A. (2006) Adult emperor angelﬁsh Silva Jr J.M., Silva F.J.L., Sazima C. and Sazima I. (2007) Trophic
(Pomacanthus imperator) clean giant sunﬁshes (Mola mola) at Nusa relationships of the spinner dolphin at Fernando de Noronha
Lembongan, Indonesia. Coral Reefs 25, 208. Archipelago, SW Atlantic. Scientia Marina 71, 505–511.
Liu K.M., Lee M.L., Joung S.J. and Chang Y.C. (2009) Age and growth Souto L.R.A., Oliveira J.G.A., Nunes J.A.C.C., Maia-Nogueira R. and
estimates of the sharptail mola, Masturus lanceolatus, in waters of ´ ˜
Sampaio C.L.S. (2007) Analise das mordidas de tubaroes-charuto,
eastern Taiwan. Fisheries Research 95, 154–160. ´
Isistius spp. (Squaliformes: Dalatiidae) em cetaceos (Mammalia:
Lopes P.R.D., Oliveira-Silva J.T., Batista R.L.G., Esquivel M. and Cetacea) no litoral da Bahia, nordeste do Brasil. Biotemas 20, 19–25.
Olavo G. (2004) Registros da famılia Molidae (Actinopterygii: and
Tetraodontiformes) no litoral da Bahia, Brasil (Oceano Atlantico
Ocidental). Revista de Biociencias 10, 205 –207. Volgelinest L. (2006) The tale of two ocean sunﬁsh (Mola mola)—an
unusual mortality in an unusual species. Annual Conference of the
´ ´ ˜
Maia V. (1979) Tecnica Histologica, 2nd edition Sao Paulo: Atheneu. Wildlife Disease Association, Healesville, Victoria, 1–5 December
Matsuura K. (2002) Molidae. In Carpenter K.E. (ed.) The living marine 2003, pp. 30–32.
resources of the Western Central Atlantic. Volume 3. Bony ﬁshes,
Part 2 (Opistognathidae to Molidae), sea turtles and marine Correspondence should be addressed to:
mammals. Rome: FAO, pp. 2014–2015. ´
Menezes N.A. (2003) Molidae. In Menezes N.A., Buckup P.A., Figueiredo Departamento de Oceanograﬁa
J.L. and Moun R.L. (eds) Catalogo das Especies de Peixes Marinhos Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
do Brasil. Sao Paulo: Museu de Zoologia da Universidade de Sao ˜ 50730-540 Recife, Pernambuco State, Brazil
Paulo, p. 111. email: email@example.com