The turtle and the remora: a love story
For one male remora at Shedd, it's been tough to get a girl to let him "stick around" for Valentine's Day. Instinctively he has always wanted a large predatory fish or other marine animal to cling to for help finding food, transportation and protection. But he can recall countless rejections and brush-offs from the large fishes, who find him annoying and bothersome. This year, that feeling of solitude is all in the past. On Valentine's Day, our lovable remora will be happily gliding under the protection of a very special Shedd Aquarium lady.
His story of love begins three years back when he first came to Shedd's Caribbean Reef habitat as a youngster measuring only 3 inches long. The Caribbean Reef provides the right kind of atmosphere and the right balance of biodiversity for a remora looking for his perfect match. He saw sleek tarpons, graceful stingrays and powerful bonnethead sharks against a background of colorful sponges and beautiful coral.
With so many options, his standards were simple: a tolerant companion who is a strong swimmer and a sloppy eater. These traits complement the remora's opportunistic feeding behavior and his desire to hitch a ride by attaching to another fish with his disc-shaped sucker.
The remora's first attempt to put himself out there ended in rejection when the powerful bonnethead shark quickly shook loose of his grip and swam away. It was very clear there wouldn't be a second date. Next, he latched onto a large tarpon, but the stars were not aligned. The tarpon would not tolerate a pesky tag-along who only wanted a free meal. The stingrays stood him up too, since they didn't want anyone nipping at their skin.
Two years went by and the remora still had not found anyone to go steady with. He was just getting used to the single life when his luck changed.
Like all dating experts say, a connection happens when you least expect it. For the remora, Cupid's suction-cup arrow went straight for the shell of one of the Caribbean Reef's most recognizable animals: Nickel, the female sea turtle. Last July, the remora began to notice what a great match Nickel would be for him. She moved at the right steady pace, her shell would provide the right amount of cover to give him a sense of security, and the way she chomped her food sent scraps all over.
The remora had finally found a connection! He latched on and realized that if he stayed under her belly and out of her line of sight Nickel actually didn't mind having him around. For Nickel, the remora didn't add much to her life, but he didn't bother her either, so she decided to let him hang out.
To this day you can see Nickel swimming with the remora holding on tight. When Nickel gets frustrated he will let go, but he usually stays within inches of his lady. It’s an interesting relationship based on compromise and tolerance.
On Mondays and Tuesdays in February you can see this Caribbean Reef duo free during Shedd’s community discount/free general admission days. Happy Valentine's Day from the Shedd Aquarium family!
Posted by Lizzy Latenser, public affairs