Raining animals is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which flightless animals fall from the sky. Such occurrences have been reported in many countries throughout history. One hypothesis is that tornadic waterspouts sometimes pick up creatures such as fish or frogs, and carry them for up to several miles.

Sharknado

Imagine a world where raining animals are a regular occurrence - say, most days on the tropical rainy season. Could a marine apex predator adapt to such a meteorological feature in order to take advantage of it, in terms of mid-air feeding? If so, what adaptations would it need, and what would it look like?

I don't expect that a shark which evolved for this would necessarily still look exactly like a real world shark, so a sharky final appearance is not a requirement for answers. Other marine predators such as orcas, barracudas and mantas are also valid candidates for this niche, and don't need to look exactly like the ones from our world's after the necessary evolutionary adaptations.

Being directly threatening to humans is also not required (I think the tornadoes are already enough of a menace).

Edit: I see people assuming that animals will always fall on land after the tornado goes. Just remember that tornadoes may flood coastal areas, giving marine life some chance to fall into water. Asides that, please assume that the tornadoes may also happen over water, far from land sometimes.

  • 1
    How do you imagine your world ? similar to Earth or more watery ? I don't think a marine predator falling more than a few meters from water could survive to do it again... – Don Pablo Sep 20 at 14:33
  • 2
    @DonPablo Earth-like. Even on Earth waters cover around 3/4 of the planet's surface, so the fish should be ok in most cases. – Renan Sep 20 at 14:39
  • 4
    From a science based perspective, nothing would adapt to live in a shark nado unless the shark nado was a critical part of its life. I see lots of problems with the shark nado. Like being lifted into the air then falling (onto the ground, surface tension of water?). Shark nado seems like a one way trip ending in death, so nothing would evolve to be part of it. – Tyler S. Loeper Sep 20 at 14:45
  • So here's one thing that the other answers (as well as the OP seemingly) seemed to miss: Let's assume that this phenomenon of sharknadoes exist and are common, and the idea is for sharks in the sharknado to be able to catch prey. But here's the thing: Sharks are marine animals. This means that once the sharknado dissipates, if it dissipates over land, there will now be a bunch of marine animals on land who can't survive there and they will die. Therefore, what evolutionary impetus is there for a shark to catch prey in a sharknado if it's just going to die anyway? The more important part here, – Ertai87 Sep 20 at 18:25
  • 3
    Earth is covered mostly water, If the planet had more water then land it could work or even without more water, it just needs more frequent storms & tornadoes for whatever reason. Some would fall on land sure, but others would not & fall into water, if it happened a lot, fish could fall from tornadoes dozens of times in its life & eventually adapt a way to hover/glide like flying fish. This could then go to any fish species the tornadoes can pick up. Including sharks, octopus & snakes as another comment mentioned. Which would then allow some to glide back over the ocean & not be stuck on land. – WolvesEyes Sep 20 at 19:06
up vote 55 down vote accepted

Falling, yes, but falling with style

When falling, if you want to catch prey, You need two things, mainly:

  1. Something to catch preys: arms, nets, big mouth, tail... you name it.
  2. Something to steer your fall: Falling straight minimize the probability to encounter a prey.

Some animals can decide where they will head to when falling. Flying squirrels, humans with wingsuits, or... Snakes.
Astonishingly, some snakes can glide through air. Namely the Chrysopelea (you can see it here). Snakes are also good at being underwater, so it could be totally possible to have a mix between a gliding snake and a marine one.

BUT

Snakes are good at catching things. Well, at catching ONE thing at a time. But we want our falling predator to be able to seize all the preys in his reach.
What looks like a snake if the snake had multiple arms ?
An OCTOPUS

enter image description here source

Moreover, octopuses are crazy good at controlling their bodies. With a little training and once it conquer its fear of heights, it could glide through the sky, following falling, frightened, desperate fishes, whom the last vision would be a terrifying cephalopod twirling toward them.

  • 10
    +1 for awesome verbiage. – Ertai87 Sep 20 at 18:14
  • 10
    And if you really really really wanted a shark, you can design a Sharktopus. Actually, this made me realize I want a Sharknado/Sharktopus crossover... – Jenayah Sep 20 at 20:26
  • 4
    It's... Disgusting. Disgustingly horrifying. Now I imagine a sharktopus falling from the sky like a missile, swoop someone like a raptor, and then crawl to the nearest river like... A blob. – Don Pablo Sep 20 at 21:21
  • 4
    Giant Sharktopus vs robo-[whatever predator you feel like inserting here] sounds like a very good title for a b-rated movie. I've watched waaaay worse movies :D – Patrice Sep 21 at 0:44
  • 3
    A sharktopus would also be terrifying because octotpi are wicked smaht – BruceWayne Sep 21 at 10:53

The biggest problem for a sharknado isn't the flying or being sucked into the air or feeding. It's the impact. So your creature either needs to be small enough to land safely, or it needs some way to slow down its terminal velocity. I'm going to assume we want a sharknado and not a minnownado, so let's think big.

Flying fish anatomy won't scale for a large animal. At shark size, the only practical solution is parachute-based.

Vampire Squid

Coincidentally, we already have a sea creature which is the right kind of shape, and that's the vampire squid. Like a flying fox, it has skin filling the gaps between its arms. Those arms (eight of them, like an octopus) have barbed teeth along them. Vampire squid only grow to about 30cm, but if we have an evolutionary niche then there's no reason they couldn't grow to the same size as an octopus. The giant Pacific octopus is reported to have up to 9m arms, with a mass of around 130kg. Let's just say that one of those parachuting into you is not going to improve your day.

Could this land itself as a parachute though? 130kg is the weight of two adults, so let's use a tandem chute for comparison. Apparently a tandem chute will be from 350 square feet, which is 31.5 square metres. 9m arms and pi gives you up to 254 square metres, which makes this trivial - it doesn't even have to be a particularly efficient wing, or have skin going further than 3m down its arms.

Landing on land instead of water? Not a problem. Stranded octopi have no problems squirming their way back to the water.

So, I give you something scarier than a sharknado - a parachuting squid-octopus bigger than your house, with barbed teeth running down each arm.

For bonus points... Do these tornados or waterspouts take place near sea cliffs? A paraglider can easily soar the updrafts of cliffs. So an even scarier thought is squadrons of these things, deliberately getting themselves caught in waterspouts near sea cliffs, so they can soar the cliffs and wait for prey to come past underneath. It'd be like a snowy owl swooping down on a tasty little mouse - except humans would be the mice.

The only remotely plausible answer to this question would be flying fish.

enter image description here

Flying fish in the air

Flying fish are already adapted to a limited flight regime, so being caught up in a waterspout and released in the air isn't going to change much of their lifestyle. The biggest danger is being crushed by the insane water pressures and "g" forces being developed inside the waterspout, but we will handwave that away.

Once clear of the waterspout, a flying fish will likely deploy its wings and begin to glide. Since it is being released at a much higher altitude than normal, it will be able to glide a considerable distance, much farther than usual (normal flying fish have terrible L:D ratios compared to gliders). From there, it might be a fairly easy adaptation to quickly glide through the dissipating waterspout and grab edible particles, plants or other fish that are being released into the air at the same time.

This really just takes normal fish behaviour and encourages evolutionary adaptations for better flight, vision and reflexes (all which would also be advantageous in the aquatic environment as well).

I don't see a pathway to evolving man eating flying fish, however.....

  • 10
    Flying piranha swarms? – kingledion Sep 20 at 17:38
  • 4
    Nooooooooooooo!! – Thucydides Sep 21 at 3:51

If the sharknado has to feed on things suspended in an air stream, it means it has to be able to collect as much as possible in the shortest time as possible.

It would make sense that their mouth evolved into an ibrid of a mist net and the mouth of the basking shark

basking shark

or the megamouth shark

megamouth shark

I assume the mouth would need a more pronounced net structure when fully opened, so that the drag would not blow the sharknado away while attempting to feed, something like a butterfly net.

OT: thanks for the attempt of putting some legitimization to the entire sharknado thing.

No adaptations necessary

enter image description here

When a waterspout delivers a flying buffet, the apex predator sharks wait at the bottom for the good stuff to come to them. By jumping out of the water, they prey on animals in the air that have no opportunity to flee. Water based propulsion systems don't work in the air, so the food is going to go where gravity directs it, which is hopefully into a shark's mouth.

Actually, they probably need different eyes

If you are going to lurk under water, and then jump up to catch a helpless falling meal, you need to

a. See into the air

b. Have good distance vision

Fish eyes are generally more convex than land animal eyes, because of the differing focusing properties of water. A jumping shark needs eyes more similar to that of a land animal so it can focus on a falling target tens of meters above the water's surface, while still submerged.

Distance vision is a function of binocular vision. A jumping shark will want its eyes closer together in its head.

  • 3
    Yeah but they can't fly up a tornado. – Renan Sep 20 at 14:23
  • 1
    @Renan Okay, I made it a real answer. – kingledion Sep 20 at 14:35

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.