If the possibility of sharks and risky weather gets you to your sketching flag, we’ve got some reassuring research on what actually happens when sharks and hurricanes collide. The study, published in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, investigated the behavior of large sharks in Miami and the Bahamas and how it turned into a severe storm.
The researchers used tagged animals for data, before, after and after the tiger shark location (Galeocerdo Cuvier), bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas), nurse shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum) and great hammerheads (2017 and after Sphyrna mokarran), Hurricane Irma. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your feelings towards low-budget sci-fi movies), severe weather-faced sharks do not merge to form Sharknado.
Bull sharks, great hammers, and mostly tagged nurse sharks have shown that they escaped the shallow waters of the Bay of Biscayne during the earthquake and were not so keen on Hurricane Irma. This move will probably be less disturbed by all the drama considering logical, deep water and will potentially help by the ability to orient itself with the geomagnetic field. Tiger sharks, it seems, don’t grow up. These giant hunters appeared to welcome the 5 Hurricane Matthew divisions as they had a sharp glimpse of the storm directly above them even as they remained in the shallow coastal waters.
Their numbers doubled shortly after the storm. Neil Hammerschlag, a research associate professor at the UM Rosenstiel School and the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy said in a statement, “When I was surprised to see that the big tiger sharks didn’t move, even when the hurricane’s eyes fell on them, it felt like they didn’t shake.” “Their numbers have increased since the storm subsided. We suspect that tiger sharks are taking advantage of new opportunities from dead animals caught in the storm.”
In addition to the excuse to ask your art director to spot some spinning sharks in a stock photo of a tornado [thanks Chris], research is a valuable tool to better understand the fate of these top predators in the ongoing climate crisis. As the growing climate on a warmer planet becomes more common, understanding the effects of storms can predict how these marine species will respond to future changes. “Frequencies and strengths are predicted to increase with climate change for large storms such as hurricanes,” said Hammerschlag, who is also the director of the university’s Shark and Research Conservation Program. “How these storms affect the environment, including large sharks, is a matter of interest and conservation for many.”
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