There are over 70 species of whales in the world today. Although each species has a different distribution, whales can be found in every major ocean of the world. They were extensively hunted for their oil and meat, but commercial whaling has been banned since 1986. This means that many species of whales are on the endangered or threatened species list. This is one of the reasons why scientists, and environmentalists alike, are concerned when whales beach themselves.
What causes whales to beach themselves?
Scientists are not exactly sure of all the reasons that whales beach themselves, but they do have some very strong theories for this particular animal behavior.
When a single whale beaches itself it is most likely due to illness or injury. Other causes may possibly be old age, rough weather, difficulty giving birth or a navigational error. Navigational errors may be caused by predators chasing the whales or when whales follow their prey closer to land.
Mass whale beaching is more of a concern and mystery. It is thought that some of the same factors, such as navigational errors, for a single stranding may play a part in mass strandings. Another widely accepted theory is that the distress call of one stranded whale can cause the rest of the pod to follow and beach themselves. It can also be caused when a pod of large whales follow a smaller species, such as a pod of dolphins, into shallower water or when the coastline gently slopes into shallower water. However, other theories such as the disruption of the magnetic field and the use of military sonar have been blamed for mass stranding of whales.