Whale Beaching

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I was thinking about the dolphins from the cove, and I remember the people in the film pushing the fact that dolphins are actually whales. I knew this already, but it got me thinking about whales and I remembered reading about mass beachings being a thing, so I decided to write about why that happens.

Strangely, the species that are known for beaching or are frequently seen doing so are all toothed whales, such as pilot, sperm, and killer whales. These toothed whales have shared characteristics that might explain their urge to beach. It is thought that the social nature of these animals is what causes them to come ashore in large numbers. Deep-water species that live and travel in tightly knit groups seem to be most susceptible. Interestingly, solitary whales or whales that live in coastal areas almost never beach themselves.

Answers as to why this happens are few. Usually whales that are beached are washed up after they have already died, but there are many cases of large groups of whales in numbers up to 800 purposefully stranding themselves on the shore. It is thought that if one of the pod members is injured or ill, its distress calls might prompt the other whales to beach themselves as well. Others think that undersea earthquakes cause a disruption in the magnetic field, confusing the whales’ sense of direction. There is also evidence that sonar can cause beachings. There have been several instances of beachings taking place after military sonar testing. The whales were found to have experienced acoustically-induced hemorrhages, meaning that the volume perceived by the sensitive whales caused tearing of tissue around the brain and ears of the poor animals. This caused them to become disoriented and most likely was the cause of the beaching.

Even though human intervention can harm these animals, it is noted that whale beachings have occurred regularly since the beginning of history. They do not harm the overall populations of these whales, nor have the numbers of beachings been increasing. In any case, I thought it was interesting.

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One thought on “Whale Beaching

  1. It is interesting and heartbreaking. I remember hearing about such occurrences since I was very young. I’d say elementary school. I wonder, if it was confirmed that human interference like sonar etc, was the cause of many of these beachings would we put a stop to it?… I don’t think so. Which just makes it worse in my mind.

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