Subject: Beaching

Al Romero (
Wed, 03 Feb 1999 17:16:30 -0600

At 02:59 PM 2/3/99 -0800, you wrote:
>Dear Aldemaro:
>Is there a simple reason why whales beach themselves repeatedly?  I
>have been asked this by a few youngsters, and although I am an
>aerospace engineer/scientist, I am at a loss for this answer.
>Thanks, and have a great day!
>Dale, D. Mikolaczyk
>Scranton, Pennsylvania  USA


This is one of the most intriguing questions in marine mammalogy. The only
thing that seems to be certain is that there is not a simple explanation
for that. Some species frequently beach (such as pilot whales) while others
never seem to do so. A number of explanations have been offered that range
from illness (with healthy individuals accompanying the ill one out of
social bond), to disorientation, pollution, etc. Certainly scientists have
moved away from anthropocentric explanations such as "mass suicide" and the
like.  Most probably different mechanisms are involved and they play out
under different circumstances.


Aldemaro Romero, Ph.D.
Director and Associate Professor
Environmental Studies Program
Macalester College
1600 Grand Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105-1899
(651) 696-8157
(651) 696-6443 (fax)