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The Shark and The Remora Fish – A Unique Relationship!

Relationship form all over the animal kingdom. Sometimes these relationships grow between the most unlikely of pairs! In the animal world, if the relationship benefits both species it is known as a symbiotic relationship. One example of symbiosis is the relationship between sharks and remora fish.

 

The remora is a small fish that usually measures between one and three feet long. Their front dorsal fins evolved over time into an organ that sits like a suction cup on the top of their heads. This organ allows the remora to attach to a passing shark, usually on the shark’s belly or underside. Sometimes they even attach to whales, manta rays, and the occasional diver!

 

The shark and remora relationship benefits both species. Remoras eat scraps of prey dropped by the shark. They also feed off of parasites on the shark’s skin and in its mouth. This makes the shark happy because the parasites would otherwise irritate the shark.

The remora receives more than a convenient food source; the sharks protect them from predators and give them free transportation throughout the oceans. Remoras keep the waters clear of scraps around the shark, preventing the development of unhealthy organisms near the shark. The host shark is also kept clean of irritating parasites that could adversely affect its health. Do not confuse Remora with pilot fish, a species that travels with sharks in a similar symbiotic relationship. Pilot fish swim alongside sharks but do not attach themselves.

 

Studies show that many shark species seem to understand the benefits a remora has on its life and well-being. Shark’s behavior changes in the presence of remoras. They have been observed slowing down, even risking their own survival, to allow remoras to attach themselves.

 

While most shark species appreciate remoras, not all are happy with this symbiotic relationship!  Sandbar and lemon sharks have been documented acting aggressively and even consuming beneficial remoras. Despite these rare instances, the shark and remora relationship is one of the ocean’s most steadfast, and will likely continue for the next million years!

 

 

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