Skip to main content
×
Home

Solar storms may trigger sperm whale strandings: explanation approaches for multiple strandings in the North Sea in 2016

  • Klaus Heinrich Vanselow (a1), Sven Jacobsen (a2), Chris Hall (a3) and Stefan Garthe (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

The Earth's atmosphere and the Earth's magnetic field protects local life by shielding us against Solar particle flows, just like the sun's magnetic field deflects cosmic particle radiation. Generally, magnetic fields can affect terrestrial life such as migrating animals. Thus, terrestrial life is connected to astronomical interrelations between different magnetic fields, particle flows and radiation. Mass strandings of whales have often been documented, but their causes and underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We investigated the possible reasons for this phenomenon based on a series of strandings of 29 male, mostly bachelor, sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in the southern North Sea in early 2016. Whales’ magnetic sense may play an important role in orientation and migration, and strandings may thus be triggered by geomagnetic storms. This approach is supported by the following: (1) disruptions of the Earth's magnetic field by Solar storms can last about 1 day and lead to short-term magnetic latitude changes corresponding to shifts of up to 460 km; (2) many of these disruptions are of a similar magnitude to more permanent geomagnetic anomalies; (3) geomagnetic anomalies in the area north of the North Sea are 50–150 km in diameter; and (4) sperm whales swim about 100 km day−1, and may thus be unable to distinguish between these phenomena. Sperm whales spend their early, non-breeding years in lower latitudes, where magnetic disruptions by the sun are weak and thus lack experience of this phenomenon. ‘Naïve’ whales may therefore become disoriented in the southern Norwegian Sea as a result of failing to adopt alternative navigation systems in time and becoming stranded in the shallow North Sea.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Solar storms may trigger sperm whale strandings: explanation approaches for multiple strandings in the North Sea in 2016
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Solar storms may trigger sperm whale strandings: explanation approaches for multiple strandings in the North Sea in 2016
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Solar storms may trigger sperm whale strandings: explanation approaches for multiple strandings in the North Sea in 2016
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
e-mail: vanselow@ftz-west.uni-kiel.de
References
Hide All
Alerstam T. (1987). Bird migration across a strong magnetic anomaly. J. Exp. Biol. 130, 6386.
Begall S., Malkemper E.P., Červený J., Němec P. & Burda H. (2013). Magnetic alignment in mammals and other animals. Mamm. Biol. 78, 1020.
Brothers J.R. & Lohmann K.J. (2015). Evidence for geomagnetic imprinting and magnetic navigation in the natal homing of sea turtles. Curr. Biol. 25, 392396.
Červený J., Begall S., Koubek P., Nováková P. & Burda H. (2011). Directional preference may enhance hunting accuracy in foraging foxes. Biol. Lett. 7, 355357.
Clemens T., Hartmann A. & Ulber J. (2016). Pottwal-Drama an der Nordseeküste. Natur- und Umweltschutz, Zeitschrift der Naturschutz-und Forschungsgemeinschaft. Der Mellumrat e.V. 15, 1324.
Cochran W.W., Mouritsen H. & Wikelski H. (2004). Migrating songbirds recalibrate their magnetic compass daily from twilight cues. Science 304, 405408.
Dennis T.E., Rayner M.J. & Walker M.M. (2007). Evidence that pigeons orient to geomagnetic intensity during homing. Proc. R. Soc. B-Biol. 274, 11531158.
Evans K., Thresher R., Warneke R.M., Bradshaw C.J.A, Pook M., Thiele D. & Hindell M.A. (2005). Periodic variability in cetacean strandings: links to large-scale climate events. Biol. Lett. 1, 147150.
Evans P. (2016). Largest sperm whale stranding ever recorded in the North Sea. Sea Watch Foundation (online since 10.02.2016). http://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/largest-sperm-whale-stranding-ever-recorded-in-the-north-sea/.
Evans P.G.H. (1997). Ecology of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in the Eastern North Atlantic, with special reference to sightings & strandings records from the British Isles. Bull. Inst. R. Sci. Nat. Bel. Biol. 67(Suppl.), 3746.
Ferrari T.E. (2017). Cetacean beachings correlate with geomagnetic disturbances in Earth's magnetosphere: an example of how astronomical changes impact the future of life. Int. J. Astrobiol. 16, 163175.
Ferrari T.E. & Tautz J. (2015). Severe Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Losses correlate with geomagnetic and proton disturbances in Earth's atmosphere. Astrobiol. Outreach 3, 134.
Goold J.C., Whitehead H. & Reid R.J. (2002). North Atlantic sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, strandings on the coastlines of the British Isles and Eastern Canada. Can. Field-Naturalist 116, 371388.
Jaquet N. & Whitehead H. (1999). Movements, distribution and feeding success of sperm whales in the Pacific Ocean, over scales of days and tens of kilometers. Aquat. Mamm. 25, 113.
Jiang H. et al. (2015) Solar forcing of Holocene summer sea-surface temperatures in the northern North Atlantic. Geology 43, 203206.
Kirschvink J.L. (1997). Magnetoreception: homing in on vertebrates. Nature 390, 339340.
Kirschvink J.L., Dizon A.E. & Westphal J.A. (1986). Evidence from strandings for geomagnetic sensitivity in cetaceans. J. Exp. Biol. 120, 124.
Klinowska M. (1985). Cetacean live stranding sites relate to geomagnetic topography. Aquat. Mamm. 1, 2732.
Klinowska M. (1988). Cetacean navigation and the geomagnetic field. J. Navigation 41, 5271.
Kremers D., Marulanda J.L., Hausberger M. & Lemasson A. (2014). Behavioural evidence of magnetoreception in dolphins: detection of experimental magnetic fields. Naturwissenschaften 101, 907911.
Liboff A.R. (2014) Why are living things sensitive to weak magnetic fields? Electromagn. Biol. Med. 33, 241245.
Lohmann K.J., Lohmann C.M.F. & Putman N. (2007). Magnetic maps in animals: nature's GPS. J. Exp. Biol. 210, 36973705.
Lohmann K.J., Lohmann C.M.F. & Endres C.S. (2008). The sensory ecology of ocean navigation. J. Exp. Biol. 211, 17191728.
Olesen O. et al. (2010a). New aeromagnetic and gravity compilations from Norway and adjacent areas – methods and applications. In: Vining B.A. and Pickering S.C. (eds) Petroleum Geology: From Mature Basins to new Frontiers. Proceedings of the 7th Petroleum Geology Conference. Geology Society, London, pp. 559586.
Olesen O., Gellein J., Gernigon L., Kihle O., Koziel J., Lauritsen T., Mogaard J.O., Myklebust R., Skilbrei J.R. & Usov S. (2010b). Magnetic anomaly map, Norway and adjacent areas. Scale 1 : 3 million, Geological Survey of Norway. http://www.ngu.no/upload/Kart og data/Geofysikkart stort format/Mag_3_mill.pdf.
Phillips J.B. (1996). Magnetic navigation. J. Theor. Biol. 180, 309319.
Pierce G.J., Santos M.B., Smeenk C., Saveliev A. & Zuur A.F. (2007). Historical trends in the incidence of strandings of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) on North Sea coasts: an association with positive temperature anomalies. Fish. Res. 87, 219228.
Qin S. et al. (2016). A magnetic protein biocompass. Nat. Mater. 15, 217226.
Rice D.W. (1989). Sperm whale. Physeter macrocephalus linnaeus, 1758. In: Ridgway S.H. & Harrison R. (eds), Handbook of Marine Mammals, River Dolphins and the Larger Toothed Whales, vol. 4, pp. 177233. Academic Press, London.
Schiffner I., Fuhrmann P. & Wiltschko R. (2011) Tracking pigeons in a magnetic anomaly and in magnetically ‘quiet’ terrain. Naturwissenschaften 98, 575581.
Schreiber B. & Rossi O. (1976). Correlation between race arrivals of homing pigeons and solar activity. Bolletino di zoologia 43:3, 317320.
Schreiber B. & Rossi O. (1978). Correlation between magnetic storms due to solar spots and pigeon homing performances. IEEE Trans. Magn., 14, 961963.
Smeenk C. (1997). Strandings of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) in the North Sea: history and patterns. Bull. Inst. R. Sci. Nat. Bel. Biol., 67(Suppl.), 1528.
Steiner L., Lamoni L., Plata M.A., Jensen S.-K., Lettevall E. & Gordon J. (2012). A link between male sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus, of the Azores and Norway. J. Marine Biol.l Assoc. UK 92, 17511756.
Thébault E. et al. (2015). International geomagnetic reference field: the 12th generation. Earth Planet. Space 67, 79.
Thejll P. & Lassen K. (2000). Solar forcing of the Northern hemisphere land air temperature: new data. J. Atmos. Sol. Terr. Phys. 62, 12071213.
Tougaard S. & Kinze C.C. (eds) (1999). Proceedings from the Workshop Sperm Whale Strandings in the North Sea. The Event – the Action – the Aftermath, pp. 125. Fisheries and Maritime Museum, Esbjerg, Biological Papers 1.
Unger B., Rebolledo E.L.B., Deaville R., Gröne A., Ijsseldijk L.L., Leopold M.F., Siebert U., Spitz J., Wohlsein P. & Herr H. (2016). Large amounts of marine debris found in sperm whales stranded along the North Sea coast in early 2016. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 112, 134141.
Vanselow K.H. & Ricklefs K. (2005). Are solar activity and sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus strandings around the North Sea related? J. Sea Res. 53, 319327.
Vanselow K.H., Ricklefs K. & Colijn F. (2009). Solar driven geomagnetic anomalies and sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) strandings around the North Sea: an analysis of long term datasets. Open Mar. Biol. J. 3, 8994.
Walker M.M., Kirschvink J.L., Ahmed G. & Dizon A.E. (1992). Evidence that fin whales respond to the geomagnetic field during migration. J. Exp. Biol. 171, 6778.
Walker M.M., Dennis T.E. & Kirschvink J.L. (2002). The magnetic sense and its use in long-distance navigation by animals. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 12, 735744.
Wiltschko R., Schiffner I. & Wiltschko W. (2009). A strong magnetic anomaly affects pigeon navigation. J. Exp. Biol. 212, 29832990.
Wiltschko W. & Wiltschko R. (1996). Magnetic orientation in birds. J. Exp. Biol. 199, 2938.
Zoeger J., Dunn J.R. & Fuller M. (1981). Magnetic material in the head of the common Pacific dolphin. Science 213, 892894.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Journal of Astrobiology
  • ISSN: 1473-5504
  • EISSN: 1475-3006
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-astrobiology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords:

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 673
Total number of PDF views: 3077 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 7865 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 15th August 2017 - 25th November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.