The Planet

Apparently Sharks Can Live Inside Volcanoes

by Kate Ryan

June 15, 2017

Sure, the idea of great whites getting caught up in tornados might seem a little far-fetched. But volcanoes? That’s another story.

According to National Geographic, an expedition team of marine biologists dropped a camera into the center of Kavachi, an underwater volcano near the Solomon Islands, and found droves of hammerheads swimming in its depths. The team, led by Brennan Phillips (and funded by National Geographic), were surprised to say the least, considering the volcano is active and consistently spews lava and ash. As Phillips told the magazine, “One of the ways you can tell that Kavachi is erupting is that you can actually hear it—both on the surface and underwater. Anywhere within 10 miles even, you can hear it rumbling in your ears and in your body.”

Phillips’ team intended to learn everything they could about the volcano, and they weren’t expecting to find such large creatures thriving in Kavachi’s extreme microclimate. According to Phillips, the water within the volcano is significantly hotter and more acidic than the surrounding sea. Despite this, the hammerhead sharks seemed perfectly comfortable. “It makes you question what type of extreme environment these animals are adapted to,” Phillips told National Geographic. “What sort of changes have they undergone? Are there only certain animals that can withstand it? It is so black and white when you see a human being not able to get anywhere near where these sharks are able to go.”

Still, the scientists have many more questions to answer before they can determine just how the sharks have managed to survive. For instance, it’s unknown whether the sharks can sense an eruption coming or whether they die from exposure to scalding steam and ashy plumes. And what does this say about the adaptability of similar aquatic life forms? This discovery, it seems, has merely scratched the surface of what there is to know.  

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Apparently Sharks Can Live Inside Volcanoes