We can explain - at least in general terms - many but not all
beachings/strandings. Certain factors and locations are often consistent
in mass strandings, and in some places it's fairly simple. in others,
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 - when one whale gets into trouble, others
will stick with it and fall into the same trap.
-- Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D. Large Whale Biology Program Northeast Fisheries Science Center 166 Water Street Woods Hole, MA 02543
Tel (508) 495-2316 Fax (508) 495-2066
> I have looked on the net for an answers to my question. My question is > why do whales beach themselves.
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