I am a nice shark – to a desperate remora, anyway

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.

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14 Responses to I am a nice shark – to a desperate remora, anyway

  1. this happened to me on roatan, honduras, a few years ago… i dropped off the back of the boat with just mask, fins, and snorkel to survey a patch reef… the drop off point was in a channel a long swim from the reef, but it was murky deep water… this sort of blind swim creeps me the fuck out, especially in back reef, lagoon systems where bull sharks are common…

    anyway, i’m kicking along on the surface when i feel something brush the underside of my legs (i was not wearing a wetsuit)… i immediately freaked-out, swallowing a huge gulp of seawater… when i turned around i saw this big remora following below me…

    it was cool to watch for a while, but then i got the sneaky suspicion that maybe his “host” was somewhere out of sight… i started swimming back to the boat and sure enough one of the boat-hands yelled to keep an eye open for a shark he had spotted…

    cool fish, but they still give me the chills…

  2. Menno says:

    I had this happen to me yesterday. Diving a reef in the Eastern Caribbean a small remora swam towards me and stayed close to me for the remainder of the dive, about twenty minutes. As the water is warm, I was only wearing shorts and I could feel the remora tickle my belly every now and then. It didn’t manage to attach though. I was told by other divers that shooed it off before that they can leave you with quite a hickey.

  3. Menno, I would have totally freaked out. Belly tickling? EEEK! I am really glad I was wearing a full wetsuit during my remora snuggle experience.

  4. A very nice post. They are a beautiful fish. I just posted a few pictures of a large one on my blog. He was swimming along other divers for a while. They have no trouble attaching to things, so I think when they are shadowing you they are not particularly interested in attaching.

    When they do attach, you can put your hand on their head and push the head toward its tail and it should come off. I imagine they’d come off when you surfaced as well.

  5. Tyler says:

    A couple of years ago I was diving in Cozumel and I had one attach to me. Out of 12 divers I was the only one without a wet suite on so it decided to harass me. At first it was just swimming near me then eventually it attempted to attach to me legs. I tried to shoo it away with no luck. I ended up sucking up all my air and had to cut the dive short. It was an unpleasant experience but ultimately it was good for a couple laughs afterwards.

  6. Paul says:

    We had a similar experience in Rangiroa in February, 2009. We were hastled by remoras 3 times while we were there. The more we swam, the more they chased us. When we shooed them them would become more aggressive. The first time I picked up 2 remoras I must have been 100 feet from Tiputu pass. The second time we were 1/2 mile northwest of the pass and the third 3 miles southeast of the pass.

  7. Audrey says:

    Came back from the Bahamas May 18th and had the same thing happen to me. I didn’t panic, but I did exhaust myself trying to chase it away. It just would not be, and I found myself in the same situation as Paul. My buddy had a big camera and chased it away by hitting it with that, but I didn’t have anything big to hit it with, so it just kept pestering. It’s good to know I’m not the only one to experience this.

  8. [...] call mine a baby though, that thing was bloody huge! Those are remoras and according to this blogger, remoras are pretty notorious for mistaking divers for sharks and attempting to snuggle up. [...]

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wow…………. Sharks are dangerous things but yet they are natural and wiled creatures you can never guess what they will do next………. WHat A Cruellllllll WORLD THEY CAN KILL YOUR FAMILY AND YET YOU CANNOT HUNT THEM IN SOME PLACES I GUESS EVERYONE HAS THERE OWN OPINION IN THESE CASES SOME THINGS DISERVE TO GET PUNISHED… a SHARK KILLS SOMEONE OHHH NOOOO!!!! I AM SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS….. ON THE NEWS SHARK ATTACK WOW… A PERSON KILLS A SHARK DANGER TO WILEDLIFE 4 YEARS OF JAIL WYF IS WRONG WITH SOMEOPLE I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND

  10. Anonymous says:

    I AM JUST JOKING DO NOT TAKE IT SERIOUS I LOVE SHARKS I WOULD NEVER WANT ANYONE TO HURT THEM MY STUPID BABY BROTHER WAS MESSING I AM SOOOO SORYY ^

  11. Alaina says:

    After watching Shark Week 2013 I found myself so grossed out the door by remoras that I had to google them. Their “sucker” just puts me over the edge, YUCK! If one ever “stuck” to me I would def freak out! They more freaky than the sharks! Eewwww! Props to all you divers – brave folk!

  12. Shawn says:

    wow, wow, wow!! Thank you for sharing these! I alayws like looking at people’s travel posts, great to be somewhat transported to the other side of the world via photos and words. The Maldives look stunning and that walkway with the frame out on the water is truly magic. The giant wall of the aquarium must have been a sight!Definitely putting the Maldives onto my ‘destination list’Thanks for dropping by and your comment on my recent post!x Lauren

  13. Maria says:

    Deborah Alvares – The very first photo is just filled with so much love. Max did such a great job bginring out your love for each other in these photos. I’m willing to bet that he didn’t have to work that hard to get that though. Congratulations to you both for taking such a huge step.

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