Tiger Sharks Are Pretty Brave During Hurricanes

Other species flee, but one species seems to see opportunity
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 6, 2021 11:30 AM CDT
Tiger Sharks Are Pretty Brave During Hurricanes
Researchers tracked tiger sharks and other types to see what they did when a hurricane hit.   (Getty/yfhishinuma)

Researchers have found before that smaller types of sharks flee shallow water as a hurricane approaches. But it looks like one response doesn't fit all large sharks, a study published in Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science indicates. Tiger sharks didn't go anywhere as Hurricane Mathew neared the Bahamas in 2016, the Miami Herald reports. "I was amazed to see that big tiger sharks didn’t evacuate even as the eye of the hurricane was bearing down on them. It was as if they didn't even flinch," said study co-author Neil Hammerschlag of the University of Miami. When Hurricane Irma closed in on Florida's Biscayne Bay in 2017, bull, nurse and great hammerhead sharks took off. But tiger sharks seemed to like the churning water; researchers found their numbers rose.

Hammerschlag said researchers think they were "taking advantage of all the new scavenging opportunities from dead animals that were churned up in the storm." The Miami researchers used tracking devices to follow the activities of four species of large sharks, 32 sharks in all, near Miami and the Bahamas. They learned the number of tiger sharks in shallow water in the aftermath of the hurricane's punch roughly doubled, per the Guardian. Tiger sharks, which can reach 18 feet long, "will eat just about anything," Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says. That includes other sharks. Only the white shark attacks people more often. "Major storms, like hurricanes, are predicted to increase in frequency and strength with climate change," Hammerschlag said. So understanding their impact on sharks, as well as the rest of the environment, is of growing importance. (More sharks stories.)

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