Whale strandings

From: Phil Clapham (pclapham@whsun1.wh.whoi.edu)
Date: Fri Mar 07 2003 - 09:04:18 EST

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    Hi:

    We can explain - at least in general terms - many but not all
    strandings. Certain factors and locations are often consistent in mass
    strandings, and in some places it's fairly simple. in others, it's more
    of a mystery.

    First of all it's important to distinguish between single and mass
    strandings. Single strandings are invariably of animals that are
    terminally ill, and these can involve anything from dolphins to
    (occasionally) large baleen whales. Mass strandings are confined
    exclusively to toothed whales (dolphins, porpoises, sperm whales etc),
    and frequently involve a few species. Pilot whales are common mass
    stranders. The reasons are probably not simple, but a mass stranding is
    likely a combination of more than one factor acting together. Each
    factor increases the probability of a stranding.

    Off Cape Cod, for instance, we have a lot of these events. Part of it
    is clear due to bottom topography - there are places here where, at high
    tide (especially spring tides) it's quite deep, but any whales hanging
    around for too long risk being caught on a rapidly falling tide and
    stranded in an area of shallows and sand bars. Add to this bad weather
    - which makes it difficult for whales to reorient themselves, and may
    well include large waves pushing them onto a beach - and you have a good
    recipe for a stranding. The close-knit social ties of pilot whales
    almost certainly don't help.

    Any ties between climate change and strandings has not been studied, but
    personally I rather doubt there's a link.

    Phil Clapham

    Daniel Bloom wrote:
    >
    >
    > Memorandum
    >
    >
    >
    > To: Dr Phil Clapman
    >
    > From: Daniel T. Bloom
    >
    >
    >
    > We have read recently about a number of incidents both in the area of
    > Florida where we live and around the world of whales beaching themselves
    > in great numbers. The question I have for you tonight is several fold:
    >
    >
    >
    > 1. Is there any common denominator in the types, ages or sexes of the
    > whales that are beaching themselves?
    >
    >
    >
    > 2. Is there any direct correlation between the re-emergence of el
    > nino, the change in weather patterns and these beachings?
    >
    >
    >
    > 3. Thank you in advance for your assistance in this matter
    >
    > The material contained in the text of this e-mail is the same as the
    > attachment shown above.This e-mail is also part of a mid-term
    > examination for a educational technology course.
    >
    >
    >
    > Daniel T. Bloom
    >
    > dbaiscrp@yahoo.com
    >
    >
    > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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    -- 
    

    Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D. Large Whale Biology Program Northeast Fisheries Science Center 166 Water Street Woods Hole, MA 02543, U.S.A.

    tel. 508 495-2316 fax 508 495-2066 email: pclapham@whsun1.wh.whoi.edu



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