Can sharks live in volcanoes? How many times have you wondered about the resilience of these water predators?
Truly, the deeper you look into the resilience of sharks, the greater the appreciation for their skills and adaptations.
After all, sharks have managed to survive five major extinction events. But, the question is, “Can sharks live inside volcanoes?
Can they really do that?
Yes, it is possible for sharks to live in underwater volcanoes, but only a few species of sharks can manage that.
The Search for Life Considering the Future of Our Planet
As we are considering the future of our planet, we are also looking to space pursuing the possibility that life after all, isn’t that unique.
Scientists believe life could exist elsewhere in the universe, perhaps on the familiar water worlds of Europa and Enceladus.
Certainly, scientists at SETI expect similar hostile environments.
And in their search, they are also interested in learning about what the highly resilient sharks can do. That brings us to whether or not they can survive in underwater volcanoes.
The Astonishing Resilience of Sharks
Can sharks be the most resilient vertebrate on earth? It is definitely possible! Sharks have proven themselves to be remarkable survivors, as evidenced by their evolutionary journey.
They have managed to survive an impressive 5 mass extinction events throughout their existence.
What has contributed to their remarkable resilience? It is difficult to say for sure, but one probable explanation is that numerous shark species prefer to reside in the depths of the ocean.
It makes them less affected by events occurring on the surface, such as colossal meteorite impacts on Earth.
Here is a bit more about different species of sharks that live in deep waters:
|Great white shark||50 to 70 years||Open ocean waters|
|Hammerhead shark||20 to 30 years||Temperate coastal waters|
|Bull shark||12 to 16 years||Coastal and freshwater areas|
|Tiger shark||20 to 50 years||Offshore and coastal temperate waters|
|Whale shark||130 years||Tropical and subtropical seas (warm)|
|Goblin shark||Over 60 years||Deep ocean|
Can Sharks Live in Volcanoes?
It is natural to think sharks cannot survive inside underwater volcanoes.
These environments are harsh due to the factors like:
- Toxic gases
- High temperatures
- Unpredictable volcanic activity
But, as amazing as it sounds, there has been evidence of sharks living in underwater volcanoes.
Although the image the fact conjures up may be slightly disturbing, shark species live in a volcano and are thriving.
An Important Consideration
They are not swimming about in lava, that’s sci-fi. These are real live sharks and as such still need water.
Sharks Living in Kavachi Volcano
The water the sharks were found in is extremely hot and acidic and fills the caldera of a volcano called Kavachi, located in the Solomon Islands.
It has been dubbed a sharkcano after the story, complete with sensational headlines, appeared on social media.
What Made Kavachi Get People’s Attention?
Kavachi, captured the scientists attention when it entered a new eruptive phases in October 2021 when the muddied ocean waters were picked up in satellite data.
By May they could see the water rising up in Kavachi for themselves.
Naturally, scientists exploring the submerged Kavachi caldera in 2015 did not expect to find sharks although a colony of bacteria were found there too.
Even though it is underwater, it is a super hostile environment. The volcano is one of the most active in the southwest Pacific region.
Fact: Kavachi volcano rarely stays above sea level for long but its base on the ocean floor is some ¾ of a mile down.
The Role of Subduction Zone in Helping Sharks Live
Much of Kavachi’s activity takes place underwater and its vibrations are felt miles away.
The entire region, which includes the Solomon Sea Plate, is volcanically active because of the nearby subduction zone.
There, just a few miles from Kavachi, the minor Solomon Plate is being subducted under two other minor plates, including:
- The Bismark Plate to the northwest
- The Pacific Plate to the northeast
The islands, and neighboring island, Vanuatu, are at the center of complex arrangement of micro-tectonic plates caused by the major subduction processes of the Indo-Australian Plate as it is forced under the larger Pacific Plate.
The Evidence of Sharks Living in Volcanoes
Can sharks live in underwater volcanoes? Well, it seems they can.
In the subduction zone, sharks were alive and well in the superhot sulfurous water in and around an active volcano.
This forced scientists to reconsider how bigger animals can live in these types of extreme environments. Interestingly, the water would burn the skin off human divers.
However, it did not seem to have any impact on a passing stingray spotted gliding inside the ash plumes on the National Geographic expedition’s Drop Cam.
There should have been nothing to see in the turbid acidic waters but sharks were clearly living there and did not look as if they were just passing through the area.
Fact: The skin of sharks has dermal denticles, tooth-like structures that help minimize drag, allowing them to swim with great efficiency and conserve their energy.
Species of Sharks Living in Volcanoes
The discovery of a large animal happily swimming through volcanic plumes prompted questions.
And interestingly, there was not just one species of shark, but two which complicated theories about their evolution and adaptation.
One major question given the extreme conditions, was whether or not this healthy population of sharks were born and bred Kavachi volcano residents.
Fact: The species themselves were easy to recognize even in the gloom, the silky shark and the hammerhead.
How Can Silky Sharks and Hammerheads Live in Volcanoes?
Silky sharks are a relatively common shark species.
They prefer the warmth of tropical coastal waters, above 23oC is ideal, making many regions favorable for living, such as:
- The Gulf of Mexico
- The Gulf of Adan
- Along the coast of south Baja California
They are migratory, following tuna caught in the Gulf Stream but have been seen in deep water at around ½ mile down and on very shallow reefs.
More about Hammerheads Living in Volcano
Like Silky sharks, hammerheads are migratory predators, moving seasonally from the warmed shallows of temperate and tropical coastlines into the cool of the deep.
There are ten species of hammerhead, one of which can grow over 15 feet but most are small and around 5 feet.
The Kavachi Volcano Sharks
Practical research followed questions and after tagging, it was established that the Kavachi sharks were a new species.
The discovery made it all the more exceptional.
This was especially for it being a large animal living and thriving in the unique extremes of ‘Kavachi’s oven’ in the caldera and with its noxiously erupting ash plumes.
Evidence of Other Species Living in Volcanoes
The extreme ecosystem also had something for the six-gilled stingray and a rare Pacific Sleeper Shark, that’s at home in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
It was found at the bottom of the volcano.
There were other discoveries that proved large animals could live in hotter, more acidic conditions than scientists had first thought.
The Mystery of Sharks Living in Hot Waters
The sharks existence offered another exciting factor for consideration.
They have existed almost unchanged over millions of years. It seems that they have adapted in response to turbulent conditions on early earth.
Now, they are highly resilient to:
- High temperatures
- The high CO2
- Sulfur and methane of the vent and plumes
The sharks mutated to adapt to the volcanic conditions long ago. The mystery is how they have thrived so studies begun in 2015 remain ongoing.
Researchers are keen to discover how large animals manage day-to-day life in the harsh conditions around vents and in eruptions.
Fact: Scientists speculate sharks have survived because they can sense an eruption and this triggers the urge to leave.
Can sharks live in volcanoes? It definitely sounds unbelievable, but some shark species can survive in underwater volcanoes.
In most cases, these sharks inhabit the surrounding waters of volcanic regions. This is where they can find marine biodiversity, which helps them survive and thrive.
But, how they can truly manage that is still a mystery and a topic of ongoing research.