Remora fish suction pad attachment is enhanced by spinule friction

Michael Beckert, Brooke E. Flammang, Jason H. Nadler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


The remora fishes are capable of adhering to a wide variety of natural and artificial marine substrates using a dorsal suction pad. The pad is made of serial parallel pectinated lamellae, which are homologous to the dorsal fin elements of other fishes. Small tooth-like projections of mineralized tissue from the dorsal pad lamella, known as spinules, are thought to increase the remora's resistance to slippage and thereby enhance friction to maintain attachment to a moving host. In this work, the geometry of the spinules and host topology as determined by micro-computed tomography and confocal microscope data, respectively, are combined in a friction model to estimate the spinule contribution to shear resistance. Model results are validated with natural and artificially created spinules and compared with previous remora pull-off experiments. It was found that spinule geometry plays an essential role in friction enhancement, especially at short spatial wavelengths in the host surface, and that spinule tip geometry is not correlated with lamellar position. Furthermore, comparisons with pull-off experiments suggest that spinules are primarily responsible for friction enhancement on rough host topologies such as shark skin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3551-3558
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


  • Adhesion
  • Asperity
  • Echeneis naucrates
  • Ratcheting friction


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