Now it is likely that the echeneis in this case, sticking upon the clammy matter, is not thought an accidental consequent to this cause, but the very cause itself.
There are two well-known species of sucking-fish, the common one described, and another of larger size, found in the Pacific, the Echeneis australis. The latter is a better shaped fish than its congener, can swim more rapidly, and is altogether of a more active habit.
Perhaps the most interesting fact in the history of the Echeneis is its being the same fish as that known to the Spanish navigators as the remora, and which was found by Columbus in possession of the natives of Cuba and Jamaica, tamed, and trained to the catching of turtles!
Therefore as those things mentioned are but consequents to the effect, though proceeding from one and the same cause, so one and the same cause stops the ship, and joins the echeneis to it; for the ship continuing dry, not yet made heavy by the moisture soaking into the wood, it is probable that it lightly glides, and as long as it is clean, easily cuts the waves; but when it is thoroughly soaked, when weeds, ooze, and filth stick upon its sides, the stroke of the ship is more obtuse and weak; and the water, coming upon this clammy matter, doth not so easily part from it; and this is the reason why they usually calk their ships.
These flat disks on their heads consist of crosswise plates of movable cartilage, between which the animals can create a vacuum, enabling them to stick to objects like suction cups. The remoras I had observed in the Mediterranean were related to this species. But the creature at issue here was an Echeneis osteochara, unique to this sea.
A smaller species of the sucking-fish is found in the Mediterranean, the Echeneis remora. It was well-known to the ancient writers; though, like most creatures gifted with any peculiarity, it was oftener the subject of fabulous romance than real history. It was supposed to have the power of arresting the progress of a ship, by attaching itself to the keel and pulling in a contrary direction!
And so saying, the sailor returned to the operation, thus temporarily suspended, the flensing of the shark. The fish that had thus singularly fallen into their hands was, as Ben had stated, the sucking-fish, Echeneis remora, one of the most curious creatures that inhabit the sea. Not so much from any peculiarity in appearance as from the singularity of its habits.