I was innocently collecting water samples when this peculiar fish started trying to snuggle:
Having no idea what it was, I ignored it until I finished my work. But it followed me back to shore, swimming just underneath my legs:
When we surfaced (the fish still with us), my dive buddy told me that my not so little friend was a remora, and that it was trying to attach to me. AIEEEEEE! Remoras usually hitch rides on sharks or turtles using the suction provided by the plate on their head. The ridges are movable and create a vacuum.
Remoras are thought to be harmless hitchhikers, eating the parasites off its host and whatever else comes by. (Somehow that didn’t make me feel any better – that remora was not so small.) There’s also some neat mythology around them. According to this website:
The ancient Greeks and Romans had written widely about Remoras and had ascribed to them many magical powers such as the ability to cause an abortion if handled in a certain way. Shamans in Madagascar to this day attach portions of the Remora’s suction disk to the necks of wives to assure faithfulness in their husbands absence.
The ancient Romans actually attributed the death of Emperor Caligula to Remoras. They were believed to be fastened onto his ship, holding it back and allowing the enemy ships to overtake it.The Latin name Remora actually means “holding back” (McClane 1998).
Apparently remoras do sometimes attach to divers. Is this because of the drastic decline of shark worldwide, and especially in the Caribbean? Was my remora lonely and desperate? Is this a remora shifting baseline – shark & turtle riders now forced to ride mere divers? Or did my remora and I just have a special moment? Since the remora a) didn’t speak English; and b) swam back out to sea once I got out of the water, the mystery remains.