Story at a glance

  • A new study published in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science found that while other species of sharks retreat from areas as hurricane conditions come in, tiger sharks remain in the area.
  • The study examined shark activity during Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Irma.
  • The researchers theorized that the tiger sharks "were probably taking advantage of all the new scavenging opportunities from dead animals that were churned up in the storm."

Unlike other species, tiger sharks don’t flee the area when a hurricane is coming, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, the study found that while other marine animals, such as dolphins and other species of shark, retreat from areas as hurricane conditions come in, tiger sharks remain in the area throughout the turbulent water and strong winds — in fact, they are attracted to it. 


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Though just recently published, the research first began in 2016 as Hurricane Matthew fell upon the Bahamas. The researchers noted that the nine nurse sharks, seven hammerhead sharks and three bull sharks they had been tracking quickly left the area as the storm rolled in. 

In contrast, one of the study’s authors, Neil Hammerschlag, found that when Hurricane Irma hit Miami in 2017, the 12 tiger sharks they were tracking remained in the shallow waters.

In fact, they found that in the days and weeks following Hurricane Irma, tiger shark appearances doubled.

"I was amazed to see that big tiger sharks didn't evacuate even as the eye of the hurricane was bearing down on them,” Hammerschlag said. “It was as if they didn't even flinch."


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The study doesn’t pinpoint an official cause, but the researchers have theorized that tiger sharks, which are known to eat just about anything, may be taking advantage of the feeding opportunities. 

The tiger sharks "were probably taking advantage of all the new scavenging opportunities from dead animals that were churned up in the storm," Hammerschlag told The Scientist, adding that the sharks are known to feed on everything from "sea birds to sea turtles to dolphins to fish to other sharks."


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Published on Jun 03, 2021