When you think of fish and sharks, you might think of the shark as the predator and the fish as the prey. However, there is more to this relationship than just that. Many types of fish swim with sharks, and they do so for a variety of reasons. In this article, we will explore the mutual benefits of this relationship and the types of fish that swim with sharks.
Benefits of Swimming With Sharks
One of the main reasons that fish swim with sharks is for mutual benefit. Sharks are apex predators, which means they are at the top of the food chain. As such, they have a lot of food options available to them. They often leave behind scraps of food that smaller fish can feed on. These smaller fish can take advantage of this food source by swimming with sharks.
Swimming with sharks can also protect smaller fish. Sharks are large and intimidating, and many other predators fear them. By swimming with a shark, smaller fish can use the shark as a shield from other predators in the ocean.
Fish that swim with sharks also benefit from the shark’s keen senses. Sharks have excellent eyesight and a sense of smell, which can help them detect predators in the area. By staying close to the shark, smaller fish can also detect predators and avoid being eaten.
Fish That Swim With Sharks
Remoras swim with sharks by attaching themselves to the shark’s body using a flat oval sucking disk on top of their head. The disk is derived from the spiny portion of the dorsal fin and contains a variable number of paired crosswise plates.
Once attached, the remora can ride along with the shark, using it for transportation and protection. The remora can also feed on scraps of food left behind by the shark and clean parasites from the shark’s skin.
The remora must swim forward to detach itself from the shark, breaking the suction created by its sucking disk. Remoras have been observed attaching themselves to various large marine animals, including sharks, rays, sea turtles, and whales.
Pilot fish swim with sharks by congregating around them, eating ectoparasites and leftovers around the shark. They have a mutualistic relationship with the sharks, in which the pilot fish benefit from the shark’s protection and the shark benefits from the pilot fish’s cleaning services.
Pilot fish are known to align themselves with dozens of species of sharks, as well as large rays and sea turtles. They are attracted to the vibrations and movements of their host species, and they can swim at high speeds to keep up with them. Pilot fish have also been observed swimming into sharks’ mouths to clean food fragments from their teeth.
Adaptations of Fish That Swim With Sharks
When it comes to swimming with sharks, fish have developed several adaptations to help them survive. These adaptations include camouflage, speed, and agility.
Fish that swim with sharks often have unique colouration and patterns that help them blend in with their surroundings. This helps them avoid detection by predators and increases their chances of survival. For example, the pilot fish has a silver body with a black band that runs along its side. This band helps the fish blend in with the dark shadow cast by the shark, making it less visible to other predators.
Fish that swim with sharks are often fast swimmers, which helps them evade predators. The remora fish have a flat, streamlined body that allows them to swim quickly through the water.
Agility is another necessary adaptation for fish that swim with sharks. Many fish can change direction quickly, making it difficult for predators to catch them. Like the pilot fish, some fish can swim in tight circles around the shark, making it difficult for other predators to get close.