Remora Family Photos and Information – Echeneidae

The Remora Family – Echeneidae

Spearfish Remora, Remora brachyptera, a representative member of the Remora or Echeneidae Family.

The fish of the Remora or Echeneidae Family are also known as Shark Suckers and/or Suckerfish and in Mexico’s fishing areas as Remoras, with a common name of pega pega. There are currently eight global members of the Remora Family of which seven reside in Mexican waters, and all seven are found in  both the Atlantic and the the Pacific, making them on of the very few families where all Mexican residents are found in both oceans.

The Remoras are tropical and sub-tropical fish that live primarily in the open ocean and occasionally in coastal waters if the hosts to which they attach themselves wander into these areas. They have the ability to swim short distances on their own in a sinuous or curved motion. They can attach themselves to larger fish and marine animals and even boats through a sucking disc. Remoras require host attachment for food, water flow across their gills, and for protection. Some Remoras have a purely phoretic relationship with their hosts, that is, they interact with their host for the purpose of transportation, providing nothing in return, while other species will eat parasites from their host, thus providing a more mutually beneficial interaction. Most attach close to their hosts mouths and in gill areas of larger sharks and rays and eat the remains from their hosts’ meals. Some Remoras attach themselves to only one species; others will attach themselves to many different species of fish, whales, sea turtles, rays, sharks, and even boats. Smaller Remoras have also been known to fasten themselves onto fish such as sailfish, swordfish, and tuna. Others have much more specific host interactions, for example the White Suckerfish, Remora albescens, is found only in the mouth and gill chamber of manta rays. Some Remoras can be eaten by their hosts.

The Remoras have slender robust bodies that are normally between 30 and 90 cm (1 to 3 feet) in length. Their head has a convex lower and a flat upper profile. Their lower jaw is projecting and their mouth is equipped with numerous small pointed teeth. Their distinctive first dorsal fin takes the form of a modified oval sucker-like organ with 10 to 28 slat-like structures (lamella) that open and close to create suction and take a firm hold of the larger marine animals. By sliding backward, the Remora can increase the suction; by swimming forward it can release the suction. The sucking disc can be seen in young fish of about 1.0 cm (0.4 inches) in length; they can attach to other species when they are 3.0 cm (1.2 inches) long. They have anal and soft dorsal fins that are similar in size and shape with long bases. Their pectoral fins are set high up on their sides. Remoras are typically uniform in color with smooth skin and are covered with small, cycloid scales. They normally appear to be swimming upside down which is related to the attachment location on their hosts. Very little is known about the biology of the Remoras due to their need for fast moving water for survival, making study in captivity impossible.

In eastern Africa and northern Australia Remoras are used to catch turtles. This is achieved via a rope that is fastened to the Remora’s tail. When a turtle is sighted, the fish is released from the boat and usually heads directly for the turtle, fastening itself to the turtle’s shell, which allows both Remora and turtle to be hauled in. In Greek mythology, Remoras have been blamed for slowing ships and even stopping sailing ships.

Lamellae and Disc Length for Remoras

Common Name Genus and Species Lamellae Disc Length vs SL
Marlinsucker Remora osteochir 15 – 19 38 – 40%
Remora Remora remora 16 – 22 31 – 33%
Sharksucker Echeneis naucrates 18 – 28 31 – 33%
Slender Suckerfish Phtheirichthys lineatus   9 – 11 20 – 22%
Spearfish Remora Remora brachyptera 14 – 17 31 – 33%
Whalesucker Remora australis 24 – 28 42 – 44%
White Suckerfish Remora albescens 12 – 14 26 – 28%
Whitefin Sharksucker Echeneis neucratoides 18 – 28 31 – 33%

There are six members of the Remora or Echeneidae Family represented in the fish identification section of this website include:

Marlinsucker, Remora osteochir
Remora, Remora remora
Sharksucker, Echeneis naucrates

Slender Suckerfish, Phtheirichthys lineatus
Spearfish Remora, Remora brachyptera
Whitefin Sharksucker, Echeneis neucratoides