Symbiotic Relationship: Sharks and Pilot Fish

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Sharks and Pilot Fish

The animal kingdom is one that is full of various kinds of relationships, some of which are interesting and some others which are bizarre. If the relationship is one that benefits all the species involved, then it is called a symbiotic relationship. A very good example of this is the one seen with sharks and the pilot fish. The pilot fish is found in various parts of the globe and is known for congregating all around sharks, sea turtles, rays, and others. 

The pilot fish congregates around these organisms and they are known for feeding off the ectoparasites and other leftovers around the species of the younger pilot fish which are regularly linked with drifting seaweed, jellyfish, and others. Pilot fish are also known for following ships over vast distances. This has been seen before in places in Ireland and even on the shores of England. 

People believed in the past that their affinity for ships assisted the sailors while navigating across the waters. The color of the pilot fish is blackish-silver and dark blue and the belly is known for having a lighter complexion. The pilot fish is also known for having a short-termed variation in color whenever it is excited as the dark-colored bars vanish and the body changes to silvery-white alongside the wide blue patches on its back. 

One can identify it easily with the five or seven prominent bands on the back which are quite darker than the other parts of the body and it can reach 70 centimeters in length. The pilot fish itself is edible but fishermen complain it is seldom available. The pilot fish is specially adapted in terms of the physical structure so that it can attach well to the sharks. They have specialized organs that allow them to get attached to the sharks. 

The specialized organs allow the pilot fish to be able to get close to the sharks especially on the belly or the underside. There are some other instances in which the pilot fish gets close to manta rays, whales, and even human divers in some other instances. 

The symbiotic relationship between the sharks and the pilot fish is one that is of benefit to the two parties. The pilot fish get sustenance by feeding on the pieces of prey that are left behind or dropped all over the place by the sharks. The pilot fish is also known for feeding off the parasites that are present on the skin of the shark and other parts like the mouth. This is beneficial for the shark as the fish assists it in getting rid of parasites that would have irritated it. 

The pilot fish also gets a lot more than a steady supply of food from the sharks. They are also offered protection by the sharks from predators that would have otherwise consumed them; this is also in addition to the free movement across the waters. The pilot fish clears all the scraps close to the shark and this stops the growth of unpleasant organisms that can be harmful to the shark itself. The shark acts as the host for the pilot fish which in turn keeps the host clean of all the annoying or even dangerous parasites. 

It is to know that pilot fish should not be confused with the remora as remora is a species of fish that moves with the shark in a similar symbiotic relationship but the major difference is that the remora fish attach themselves directly to the sharks. Scientists have studied this relationship and they noticed that several shark species appreciate the symbiotic relationship that they share with the pilot fish. However, there are a few other shark species like the lemon and sandbar sharks that are not do not find this relationship interesting and can even get aggressive. That said, the relationship between the sharks and pilot fish will continue for a long time to come. 

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