Solar Storms Can Cause Whales To Be Stranded

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According to study, these phenomena could alter the magnetoreceptors of cetaceans.

Whales are more likely to be stranded on the coasts on the days when there are more sunspots, according to a new study published in the journal ‘Current Biology’.

Sunspots are interesting because they are also linked to solar storms: sudden releases of high-energy particles from the Sun that have the potential to disrupt magnetic orientation behaviour when they interact with the Earth’s magnetosphere.

But what is especially prominent about the new study, according to the researchers, is that they were able to explore how a solar storm could cause the whales to get stuck.

“Is it that solar storms are pushing the magnetic field, giving the whales incorrect information?” Asks Jesse Granger of Duke University.

Or is it that solar storms are spoiling the receiver itself and the whale goes blind? “

“We show that the mechanism behind the relationship between solar storms and gray whales, if it is an effect on a magnetic sensor, is probably caused by the interruption of the sense itself, not by inaccurate information,” he says.

“So, to put this back into the previous metaphor, the great secondary finding of this document is that it is possible that the reason why whales run aground much more frequently when there are solar storms is because they have become blind, in instead of having their internal GPS giving them false information, “he continues.

Granger explains that his interest in long-distance migration is due in part to his personal tendency to get lost, even on his way to the grocery store. I wanted to explore how some animals use magnetoreception to navigate observing incidents when navigation went terribly wrong.

“I assumed the hypothesis that by observing patterns in space and at the time of incidents in which an animal could not navigate correctly, we could better understand the meaning as a whole,” says Granger.

The team studied 186 live strands of gray whales (‘Eschrichtius robustus’). The data showed that these strandings occurred significantly more often on days with high sunspot counts than on randomly chosen days.

On days with a high sunspot count, the possibility of a beaching more than doubled.

An additional study showed that stranding occurred more frequently on days with a high rate of solar radio flux, measured from Earth, than on randomly chosen days. On days with high RF noise, the probability of stranding was more than four times higher than on randomly selected days.

To Granger’s surprise, they did not find a significant increase in stranding on days with large deviations in the magnetic field. Together, the findings suggest that the higher incidence of stranding on days with more sunspots is explained by an interruption of the magnetoreceptive sensor of the whales, rather than the distortion of the geomagnetic field itself.

“I really thought that the cause of the stranding was going to be inaccurate information,” Granger acknowledges. “When those results were negative, I felt puzzled. It wasn’t until one of my co-authors mentioned that solar storms also produce large amounts of radio frequency noise. that can alter the magnetic orientation, that things finally began to click. “

Solar Storms Can Cause Whales To Be Stranded

Granger says it is important to keep in mind that this is not the only cause of stranding. There are still many other things that could cause a whale to run aground, such as medium frequency naval sounding.

Granger now plans to perform a similar analysis for several other whale species on several other continents to see if this pattern exists on a more global scale.

He also hopes to see what kind of information this broader image of stranding can offer for our understanding of the magnetic sense of whales.

 

Source: El Tiempo