Why do whales beach themselves? Are strandings increasing?

TitleWhy do whales beach themselves? Are strandings increasing?
Publication TypeMagazine Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsKetten, D. R.
MagazineScientific American
Issue Number4
Date Published10/2009
Keywordsbeach, beaching, disease, marine mammal stranding, ship strike, strandings, trauma, whale stranding

I often use the analogy of a car crash, because a lot of things can go wrong but you get the same result. Statistically, we are only able to determine the cause of a stranding in about 50 percent of all cases worldwide. In some cases it is obvious, like a ship strike leaving an animal in poor condition. In the northeastern United States pneumonia is a common cause of stranding. We see other diseases and trauma, such as shark attack on whales or dolphins or attacks by members of the same species. Poisonous "red tides" will also affect marine mammals. Some strandings have been speculated to be related to anomalies in the magnetic field.