Do Sharks Run from Hurricanes?

from click2houston.com
from click2houston.com

A recent University of Miami study looked at tagged sharks off Florida and in the Bahamas during different hurricanes with the question of just what do sharks do when these storms approach.

I had the question as to how they even know when a hurricane is coming?? Turns out sharks have lateral lines...an organ of tiny pores that can sense vibration. Normally, those vibrations indicate a meal somewhere but certainly a storm will cause a lot of ‘noise’. These pores also realize when barometric pressure is dropping. The lateral lines run the length of their body:

These latera lines sense approaching hurricanes!

As you’d expect, most sharks leave the scene when they sense a storm, but an exception is the Tiger Shark:

This tiger shark was caught (and released) in Corpus Christi in 2019

Tiger sharks around the Bahamas stuck it out during Cat5 Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In fact, after the storm passed the number of Tiger sharks doubled! Clearly, the storm provided a buffet of sorts. Most sharks miss out on the scavenging as they headed for deeper water. Even Great Whites run!

So What About other Sea Life?

Dolphins and other fish pick up on salinity changes caused by the heavy rains ahead of the stronger eye of the storm. That’s a signal to get out of the way--if they can. Obviously, a lot of sea life, like oysters, are slow movers. The swirling waters associated with hurricanes also deplete the oxygen levels below which can kill them. Coming up for air in the turbulent waves can actually drown fish, so staying behind can and does have deadly consequences.

Dolphins in Galveston Bay from click2houston.com

Turtles, as you might guess, fend for themselves. They can stay under water a good four hours and they were born with pretty good shell-ters! (Sorry--I had to put in at least one pun). You can learn more and support these little guys right here.

Bottom line: when hurricanes approach our coast, you’d be smarter to disappear like a tiger than hang out like a Tiger shark.

Have a safe weekend!

Frank

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About the Author:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.