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Why do whales come ashore?

Darlene Keaton, a neuroethologist from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, explains why there is no single reason for the strange phenomenon of beached whales and wonders what can be done to reduce the phenomenon

Three whales on the beach - engraving by the Dutch artist Jan Wierix from 1577
Three whales on the beach - engraving by the Dutch artist Jan Wierix from 1577

I often compare beaching whales to a car accident: many things can cause an accident, but the end result is the same. We are only able to determine the reason for going ashore in about 50% of the cases. Of these, sometimes the cause is self-evident, for example when an impact from a ship leaves characteristic fractures and wounds on the animal's body.

In the northeastern United States, pneumonia and trauma after storms are common causes. We also see other types of trauma, such as shark attacks or even attacks by members of the same biological species. Man-made pollutants or natural toxins, such as algal toxins that affect the nervous system are also linked to mass beaching. Some have also suggested disruptions in the magnetic fields and tsunami waves as possible causes.

Some of the most fascinating cases originate from diseases and developmental problems. We notice cases of parasites and diseases far more serious than those of domestic animals or humans. It's surprising to see details that survive so long with such vulnerabilities.

Military sonar devices have undoubtedly contributed to some recent beaching of whales of a certain species, beaked whales, but there is no evidence that sonar affects all species of whales. It is interesting that sonar probably only affects beaked whales and only in a few places - which gives rise to hope that it will be possible to solve at least this particular problem.

There are also cases that do not have one clear answer. Currently, diagnostic techniques accepted in human medicine, such as CT and MRI scans or molecular tests, are used to improve the understanding of the causes of beachings.

We know of cases of whales coming ashore as far back as Aristotle's time, and hence most cases are natural phenomena. This raises the question: if we insist on returning the whale to the sea, are we not harming the whale population? If it is a sick individual, what are we doing to the band? I am not suggesting that we stop rehabilitating animals when possible, but this is an important issue that should be given some thought.

what can we do?
On the other hand, if human activity is pushing the whales to shore, we need to know about it in order to decide what to do about pollutants, shipping lanes and noise. Are we contributing in any way to the deterioration of the health of populations that are in critical condition, such as the northern right whale of which there are less than 400 individuals left? We are definitely receiving more reports of beachings, and we are currently checking whether there are indeed more such cases or simply more reports in certain areas.

Sometimes, regardless of the reason, the only practical option is to kill the whales in order to shorten their suffering - as was done in May 2009, when killer whales, washed ashore near Cape Town in South Africa, prevented any attempt to return them to the sea.

Imagine the effort required to return them to the water in winter conditions. They are big, but in some ways they are also delicate. For example, sand or water entering their blowhole during transmission has the same effect as water entering our nose. If you manage to get the animal to the sea and it swims away but gets tired and comes back two or three times, you must decide if it can survive or if it is suffering, and then the veterinarian must end its life in a humane way.

15 תגובות

  1. first thing
    Evolve is with A, not evolution, evolution. Open a book once in a while!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Secondly, how can a leviathan decide on one clear day that he is tired of the sea? what's going on with you I'm dying from these comments
    It's like one day I'll wake up in the morning and decide I'm tired of the earth, I'll jump off the earth and go to Mars.
    Third thing, what is unrequited love hahaha seriously?
    You guys are a bunch of Bnei Belial, it's so funny

  2. If we assume that everything is as it seems, until proven otherwise, then the leviathans coming onto land are simply committing suicide. Of course, it is possible that each of the suicides could have private reasons such as unrequited love, let's say. But if we treat it as a wider phenomenon, the most likely explanation is that they prefer a short and quick death on land, over a slow and multi-symbol kidney in the smelly and polluted soup that the human race cooks for them in the oceans and seas in the process of its own suicide (all according to the best rules of evolutionary development, where the successful species exterminate all others and themselves at the rate of three billion tons of oil burned per year). The rise of the whales over land, in this respect, is like the photographic displays of Stephen Hawking demonstrating to everyone levitation in a spaceship, as a recommendation for a quick escape method from the earth which we are consuming in a flash, in total opposition to God's commandment from chapter XNUMX of Genesis,
    to work the land and protect it.

  3. In my opinion, Itzik is right. The whale was once a terrestrial creature and its name was hippopotamus. He did the opposite way - returned from the land to the sea.

  4. The whales were created from a terrestrial mammal that returned to the sea about 20 million years ago if I'm not mistaken. Maybe 1 is right and this is their nature 20 million years in the sea 20 million years on land and God forbid.

  5. I'm not sure that response number 1 is a wrong response, just clever. Obviously, they didn't seriously mean that they were tired of the sea, and I couldn't understand if 8 was responding to 3 or 1.

  6. to my father,
    Please delete comments 8 and 3. It is not appropriate in such a place to speak in such a way to a person (or at all), regardless of the level of intelligence that you supposedly think is here. All "maybe" did was express a wrong opinion.
    Just a few days ago, a judge's car was burned due to talkbacks with a common denominator on slightly more extreme websites.

  7. Well, it seems that even human stupidity is are in an evolutionary stage of mega-stupidity

  8. Just a small note regarding the translation of species names.
    The comment is addressed to the Scientific American system, who are probably responsible for the translation from English.
    The species northern right whale that is mentioned in the original article, cannot in any way be translated to "right whale" as in the article. The word right is not the name of an explorer who discovered them (then this translation made sense) but simply the word "right" in English, since these were the "right" whales to hunt, in the eyes of the whalers in the 17th century. In Hebrew the name of this whale is "Northern black whale" and there was a place to use scientific editing in order to avoid such a mistake. In old Hebrew literature, the name used to be translated as "right-wing whale" which is completely ridiculous, because it is known that most of the whales voted vigorously, and those who didn't - joined the Greens and did not pass the threshold.

  9. The whales existed before the movement of the continents, their instinct to move in a certain direction has existed in them for hundreds of millions of years. And now a new continent has been created standing in their way, which they do not know, the continent is the one that rises towards them
    And they are not the ones who rise above it.

  10. Indeed a very fascinating question....what makes these most intelligent animals lose the north...especially since they have so much navigational ability and intelligence....but regarding the mass immigration on land in Cape Town I understood that this is a completely different event. Because usually only a few immigrate, if not just one In just one instance, there was a taxi on her that made one think that something of human origin must have driven them completely crazy as a collective...

    By the way..most of the world refrains from hunting them..not including our friends who advocate for humanity and peace Denmark and Norway Sweden Ltd..and unfortunately also the Japanese on their side...who take whales for "research purposes"...

  11. A possible response - that's not how evolution works. In order for a transition to a new environment (including adaptation to a changed environment) to occur, a physiological or anatomical mutation is necessary that will provide some advantage in the new environment. If this mutation spreads in the population, it is an evolutionary change. During the generations, a mutation may arise that gives an additional advantage or strengthens the advantage that has already been created, and so on, until a new species is formed. Certainly this does not involve the will of the organism.

  12. I think this is actually their next step in evolution, they come up on the beach to walk on land and become a new type of dinosaur, that's probably what's going through their heads, yeah, they want to take over another niche, they're tired of the sea so they want to become land creatures, how cool , how evolution surprises every time.

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