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LINK We Now Know The Horrifying Reason Sonar Makes These Whales Beach Themselves

seems this is no longer a mystery but now it's just freaking sad

Since the 1980s scientists have spotted a link between naval sonar systems and beaked whales seemingly killing themselves - by deliberately getting stranded on beaches. Now, researchers might have revealed the horrifying reason why.

In short, the sound pulses appear to scare the whales to death, acting like a shot of adrenaline might in a human, and causing deadly changes in their otherwise perfectly calibrated diving techniques.

By studying mass stranding events (MSEs) from recent history, the team found that beaked whales bring a sort of decompression sickness (also known as 'the bends' or 'divers' disease' ) on themselves when they sense sonar. When panicked, their veins fill up with nitrogen gas bubbles, their brains suffer severe haemorrhaging, and other organs get damaged.

"In the presence of sonar they are stressed and swim vigorously away from the sound source, changing their diving pattern," one of the researchers, Yara Bernaldo de Quiros from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain, told AFP.

"The stress response, in other words, overrides the diving response, which makes the animals accumulate nitrogen."

The end result is these poor creatures die in agony after getting the whale version of the bends – not something you would normally expect from whales that are so adept at navigating deep underwater.

Typically, these animals naturally lower their heart rate to reduce oxygen use and prevent nitrogen build-up when they plunge far below the surface. Tragically, it appears that a burst of sonar actually overrides these precautions.

The researchers weighed up the evidence from some 121 MSEs between the years 1960 and 2004, and particularly focussed on the autopsies of 10 dead whales stranded in the Canary Islands in 2002 after a nearby naval exercise.

It's here that the decompression sickness effects were noticed, as they have been in other stranding events that the researchers looked at.

While the team notes that the effects of sonar on whales seem to "vary among individuals or populations", and "predisposing factors may contribute to individual outcomes", there does seem to be a common thread in terms of what happens to these unsuspecting mammals.

That's especially true for Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) – of the 121 MSEs we've mentioned, 61 involved Cuvier's beaked whales, and the researchers say they appear particularly vulnerable to sonar.

There's also a particular kind of sonar to be worried about: mid-frequency active sonar (MFAS), in the range of about 5 kilohertz.

Now the researchers behind the new report want to see the use of such sonar technology banned in areas where whales are known to live – such a ban has been in place in the Canary Islands since the 2002 incident.

"Up until then, the Canaries were a hotspot for this kind of atypical stranding," de Quiros told AFP. "Since the moratorium, none have occurred."

The research has been published in the []

By Lukian8
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Despite claiming greatness, watch as the US government refuses to spend money to save the whales they now kill. It's so often embarrassing to be American on the world stage. ☹

@Lukian Agreed. We should all begin on a regional level.


Humans are a scourge on the planet. Made me very sad to know researches are aware of the effects and are not doing more to stop harming these wonderful animals.


That’s awful, what a thing to do to these poor animals. Good that they found out what it was of course, but let’s hope that they can get the political will together to actually do something about it.

Denker Level 7 Feb 1, 2019

That's horrific. I'm glad they figured out what was going on and stopped harming the whales.


This is why careful planning is needed, with regard to nature! What will become of us, when we kill off, most all living things...some out of pure ignorance (and never forget profits).


There's a show on netflix called "Weird Wonders of the World" and this issue was shown. It's just more proof of how we are screwing up the world. We have a large Naval Air base on a large island to the south. They are expanding their operations and don't seem to give a damn how this affects the community or the environment. When people think they are in the role of protector it goes to their head and they feel justified in any kind of behavior. Try convincing the military they have rules to be obeyed.


While Australia has been looking for MA 17, mapping the ocean floor for the first time (wonder who gets that info), it makes you wonder what effect it has had on all marine life in those oceans. A lot of sonar work.

powder Level 8 Jan 31, 2019
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