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Beached whales scared to death of sonar sound

THE mystery of beaked whales being “suicidal” may finally have been solved because sonar, commonly used by America and NATO, causes decompression sickness, also known as the bends.

This condition, as many will know, also affects scuba divers, and it is believed that the condition forces the whales to beach themselves.

Scientists had previously made the link between beached whales and exposure to naval sonar.

Some 21 experts in the Royal Society journal Proceedings B have released their research findings.

Scientists have long known that some beaked whales beach themselves and die in agony, and now they know why.

The fear and stress of the huge animals’, when they hear sonar, over-rides their natural diving instinct and creates a build-up of nitrogen in the blood, leading to the bends.

In humans, this occurs when a diver ascends to the surface too quickly. But in whales, it is initiated by fear. And research shows that whales which suffer from this can often die, and wash up on a beach several days later.

Mid-frequency active sonar (MFAS) has been used since the 1960s to detect submarines, emitting underwater signals.

This causes beaked whales, in particular, to become scared and swim away from the sound, discarding their dive pattern.

“In the presence of sonar, they are stressed and swim vigorously away from the sound source, changing their diving pattern,” said Yara Bernaldo de Quiros, lead researcher at the Institute of Animal Health, at Gran Canaria’s University of Las Palmas.

There were 121 mass strandings between 1960 and 2004, with at least 40 linked in time and place with naval activities.

Other threats include ship strikes, ocean pollution and shifting habitats caused by climate change.

 

Short URL: http://www.canarianweekly.com/?p=46087

Posted by on Feb 15 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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