What Good Is Half A Sucker?

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The remora is so ridiculous that no one would try to make it up. The top of its head is a giant, flat suction cup. It uses the cup to lock onto the bodies of bigger animals, such as sharks, sea turtles, and whales. As the big animal swims for miles in search of a meal, the remora hangs on for the ride. When its host finds a victim, the remora detaches and feasts on the remains. It sometimes cleans its host’s body and mouth of parasites, and then clamps its head back on for another ride.


The remora’s ridiculousness makes it a fascinating evolutionary puzzle just waiting for the solving. Other species clamp themselves onto other animals–whale barnacles, for example, grow prongs from their shells that anchor them to whale skin–but among fish, remoras are exceptional. Their closest relatives include Mahi-Mahi and amberjacks, neither of which has anything on their head that even faintly resembles the remora’s sucker. Only after the ancestors of remoras and these ordinary fish split apart some 50 million years ago, the remoras evolved a remarkably new piece of anatomy.

When you look closely at the remora’s suction disk, its remarkableness only grows. It looks like a spiked Venetian blind. Pairs of slat-like bones called lamellae form a series of rows running down the length of its head, and muscles running from the remora’s skull to those bones pivot them, creating spaces between the rows.

Written By: Carl Zimmer
continue to source article at phenomena.nationalgeographic.com

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  1. Also who’s to say that there needs to be an advantage in half a suction cup. It could have spawned outside of sexual selection or selection by predators or selection by habitat. This may have just being in the gene pool , increasing the ‘suction’ characteristic , through the laws of inheritance , ignorant of any selection pressures , and then bang , when it became so defined , it was useful , the gene just took over.

  2. And of course , it maybe that change was brought about by different selection pressures. Kind of like an unrelated trait was first selected for by source a , then source b took over and selected it for something else , then source c found that useful and selected it for something else. And also in theory the change mightn’t have even being a gradual hollowing out of the skull. It could have gone through unrelated changes , in terms of what you see in the end product. In theory it could have had a pertruding lump of cartilage where the hollow is now at some stage of its history.

    Edit: Highly unlikely

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