It's not a sharknado, but it just might be a sharkcano. Scientists recently found a sleeper shark living in an area that he wasn't supposed to be: in a volcano. The Kavachi is a very active underwater volcano in the Solomon Islands near Papua New Guinea, and when scientists sent down camera-laden robots to examine the volcano, they discovered far more than they expected.
Brennan Phillips, a University of Rhode Island Ph.D. student, was on this scientific expedition and described the scientists' reactions when they found multiple species of animals living in the volcano: "We were freaking out."
Included in the litany of animals living inside the volcano are the Pacific sleeper shark, hammerhead sharks, and silky sharks, amongst other sea life.
Of importance to Phillips and the other researchers is how these animals live in such a hot, acidic environment. The scientists sent robots down because "Divers who have gotten close to the outer edge of the volcano have had to back away because of how hot it is or because they were getting mild skin burns from the acid water," Phillips explained.
This discovery has opened up a world of new questions that Phillips and his team hope to answer at some point. "These large animals are living in what you have to assume is much hotter and much more acidic water, and they're just hanging out," Phillips said. "It makes you question what type of extreme environment these animals are adapted to. What sort of changes have they undergone? Are there only certain animals that can withstand it?"
Perhaps a more pressing question is: what do these animals do if Kavachi erupts? "Do they get an early warning and escape the caldera before it gets explosive," Phillips asked, "or do they get trapped and perish in steam and lava?"
Those questions will take time and more research to answer. In the meantime, Phillips takes some joy in knowing that these animals, some very rare, are safely hidden from humanity in the heart of this volcano. "It is so black and white when you see a human being not able to get anywhere near where these sharks are able to go," Phillips said.
Watch the incredible video below of what the robots found as they descended into the volcano, and then share this amazing story with your family and friends on Facebook.