Can the Sharkcano sharks survive their erupting home?
Scientists were shocked back in 2015 when they found several species of shark living in the hot, acidic crater water of an underwater volcano. Now this Sharkcano is starting to erupt. Will the sharks survive?
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Kavachi Volcano sits about 15 miles south of Vangunu Island beneath the surface of the Solomon Sea. This is in the western Pacific Ocean between New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Kavachi’s first recorded eruption happened in 1939, with more recent major eruptions in 2007 and 2014. It was during a lull in 2015 when scientists dropped a camera 150 feet into the crater and saw a surprising amount of life in a seemingly inhospitable section of sulfuric sea. In addition to hammerhead and silky sharks, snapper, sixgill stingrays, bluefin trevally and jellyfish also called this crater home sweet home.
Most surprising of all, researchers identified a Pacific sleeper shark among the volcano denizens. These stealthy swimmers measure up to 23 feet long and are rarely seen by humans. “We were freaking out,” said oceanographer Phillips Brennan of his team’s discovery, as reported by National Geographic.
It’s hard to keep tabs on a dangerous underwater volcano and its occupants. Much of what scientists know comes from NASA satellite images documenting changes in the color of water around Kavachi. In October of 2021, Kavachi entered an eruptive phase, according to the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program. Images from April and May of 2022 show episodes of discolored water around the volcano, indicating eruptions.
If Kavachi really blows its top, what will happen to the sharks? Scientists have theorized that electroreceptors called ampullae of Lorenzini, located near sharks’ snouts, warn them of shifts in Earth’s magnetic field. “It looked like the sharks in the volcano were used to dealing with eruptions,” said Michael Heithaus, a biological scientist at Florida International University, as reported by 9News Australia back in 2020. “You would think it’s dangerous, but studies have shown us they can detect approaching hurricanes and cyclones, so they may be able to detect when something bad is about to happen and move out of the way.”