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Soundings Archive

European Research Indicates Solar Activity Causes Whale Strandings
Two independent scientists at the University of Kiel have published research that indicates surges in solar activity may cause whales to run aground.

Changes in solar radiation significantly affect the earth's magnetic field according to Agence France Presse and Discovery, which recently wrote stories about this important new research. They note that solar flares can also disrupt telecommunications and power lines and even knock out delicate circuitry onboard satellites.

The Kiel research team suggest that whales may have a magnetic sense of orientation like pigeons, who are believed to navigate in part through small magnetic crystals on their beaks.

The two scientists compared North Sea whale stranding data from 1712 to 2003 with sunspot observations over the same period. Sunspots are a common indicator of solar activity. The researchers concluded that 90% of recorded strandings occurred during periods of increased solar activity.

This new research indicates that strandings may depend on solar activity, in particular solar-induced variations in the earth's magnetic field that temporarily disorient migrating animals.

The published article states in part:
    In the final decades of the last century, an increasing number of strandings of male sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) around the North Sea led to an increase in public interest. Anthropogenic influences such as contaminants or intensive sound disturbances) are supposed to be the main causes, but natural environmental effects may also explain the disorientation of the animals.
The article is published in the April 2005 issue of Journal of Sea Research

The article abstract is available free online at the link below. Copies of the entire article must be purchased.

  • Click here for article abstract


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    Copyright 2005 The Center for Regulatory Effectiveness.
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