The large solar storms, responsible for the northern lights, may have played a role in the stranding of 29 sperm whale in the North Sea at the beginning of 2016.
A new study says that these geomagnetic disturbances may have confused the whales ‘ ability to navigate, to divert them in the shallow waters.
Trapped and lost, the whales are dead on the european beaches, attempting to escape.
The research was published recently in the International Journal of Astrobiology.Mysterious losses
The researchers were surprised by the losses that the autopsies showed that the animals were mostly well-fed, young and disease free.
The 29 strandings have aroused great public interest and a large number of theories among scientists.
They range from the poisoning, climate change driving prey in the North Sea, the great whales followed them to their fate.
Sperm whales live in deep, warm-to-temperate waters around the world. Many of the groups living around the Azores in the eastern Atlantic ocean.
When they are between 10 and 15 years of age, the young males head north towards the polar region, attracted by the enormous quantities of squid found in the coldest waters.
Their journey sometimes takes along the west coast of the united KINGDOM and Ireland, and in the Norwegian sea. They usually return by the same route.
But in less than a month at the beginning of 2016, 29 sperm whales were found stranded on the coasts of Germany, the netherlands, the united KINGDOM and France.
Now, a team of researchers say they think they understand what happened to them.
The claim that sperm whales navigate using the Earth’s geomagnetic field.
Rather than being uniform, the field is stronger in some places and lower in others, and scientists believe the species to learn to read these anomalies and use them for navigation in the way in which the human contours on the maps.
Dr. Klaus Vanselow, University of Kiel, Germany, and his colleagues say that large solar storms may have distorted the magnetic field and caused the whales to lose their way.
Triggered by coronal mass ejections from the Sun, these storms contain large amounts of charged particles and radiation.
When they hit the upper atmosphere, produce the most spectacular displays of the polar aurora in the Arctic, but the most powerful of the storms can also cause damage to communication systems and satellites.
Scientists already have evidence that the solar storm activity can have an impact to the navigation capacities of birds and bees.
Dr Vanselow and colleagues have studied the link between the strandings of whales and two large solar storms that occurred at the end of the month of December 2015.
These products, huge displays of the Aurora Borealis that were seen in many parts of Scotland and elsewhere.
Looking specifically at the area around Shetland, the scientists found that these events have caused short-term changes in the magnetic field up to 460km, in the area between the islands and Norway.
What could have caused sperm whales in the region to move in the wrong direction.
They also believe that sperm whales regularly see magnetic anomaly off the coast of norway as a “magnetic mountain”, a sort of guardrail that prevents it from entering the North Sea.
Solar storms may have cancelled out this effect, the rendering of the chain of mountains of the invisible, and to allow the whale to swim in the North Sea.
“Where the polar lights are seen, it is the region with the most geomagnetic disturbances on the surface of the Earth,” Dr. Vanselow told the BBC News.
“Sperm whales are large animals and swim in the free ocean, so that if they are disturbed by this effect, they can swim in the wrong direction for days and then correct them.
“But in the area between Scotland and Norway, if the whales swim in the wrong direction for a day or two, and then it is too late to go back, they are trapped.”
Dr. Vanselow believes that his theory of meaning with the chronology of the discovery of the stranded whales up to six weeks after the storms.
He believes that because young males grow up around the Azores, a region that sees minimal impacts from solar storms, the creatures have little experience with the sudden and powerful events that affect the poles.
Dr. Vanselow research is a theory that is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove.
However, other scientists say it is plausible.
“It would be difficult to say that “yes, it was the cause”, it would be safe to say that,” said Abbo Van Neer of the University of Hannover who conducted the autopsy on the 16 whales that stranded in Germany.
“But it is a good assumption and the reason for stranding.”
Nasa has also examined the question of whether solar storms can affect the whole of the range of cetaceans in the world.
A team of researchers is shortly to publish a research paper on the link between the stranding events on Cape Cod and geomagnetic storms. They say that the Venselow paper is “based”.
“This is a potential mechanism for animals of the confusion, I think it is a credible theory,” Dr. Antti Pulkkinen, who is the head of the Nasa project, told the BBC News.
“But their paper to prove that this is the case? I don’t think so.”
“After looking at this problem from a data analysis point of view, it is not a single factor that contributes to this.
“Things need to be aligned from several different perspectives to these events.”
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