Disoriented giants

Why are whales stranded?

Walstrings in Marion Bay, Tasmania Steve Johnson, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service
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It is one of the biggest animal riddles: Huge whales navigate their thousands of kilometers of hikes, at first aimlessly through the expanse of the oceans. Then they start to swim in small bays, where they are stranded in the shallow water, and in some cases hundreds of miserable people perish.

Already more than 2, 000 years ago, Aristotle asked himself the question of the reason for this phenomenon. For him, the whale strandings simply made no sense - as for the people today. Because despite intensive research - especially in the last ten years - the cruel spectacle of nature still puzzles the scientists.

The ever-increasing pollution of the oceans with crude oil, heavy metals or DDT, the daily noise of shipping traffic, oil drilling and acoustic weapons of the military or fluctuations in the Earth's magnetic field: there are now many theories about the causes of mass strandings of the sea giants. But none has yet withstood all scientific tests.

Or is there in the end no simple explanation for the mass strandings? Climate change, solar storms, environmental toxins: Do several reasons have to come together so that whales lose their orientation and collectively commit "suicide"?

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Daniel Goliasch
As of: 06.01.2006 Display