Sucker with a fat lip: The soft tissues underlying the viscoelastic grip of remora adhesion

Karly E. Cohen, Callie H. Crawford, Luz Patricia Hernandez, Michael Beckert, Jason H. Nadler, Brooke E. Flammang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Remoras are fishes that attach to a broad range of hosts using an adhesive disc on their head that is derived from dorsal fin elements. Research on the adhesive mechanism of remoras has focused primarily on the skeletal components of the disc and their contribution to generating suction and friction. However, the soft tissues of the disc, such as the soft lip surrounding the bony disc and the muscles that control the bony lamellae, have been largely ignored. To understand the sealing mechanism of the disc, it is imperative to understand the tissue morphology and material properties of the soft lip. Here, we show that the soft lip surrounding the remora disc is comprised of discrete multilayered collagen, fat, and elastic tissues which we hypothesize to have specific roles in the viscoelastic sealing mechanism of the remora disc. The central, heavily vascularized fat and collagen layer are infiltrated by strands of elastic tissue and surrounded by crossed-fiber collagen. A newly described jubilee muscle underneath the adhesive disc provides a mechanism for stopping venous return from the disc lip, thereby allowing it to become engorged and create a pressurized fit to the attachment substrate. Thus, the remora lip acts as a vascular hydrostat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)643-654
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


  • adhesive disc
  • crossed-fiber collagen
  • elastin
  • jubilee muscle
  • underwater attachment
  • vascular hydrostat


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