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

Vanselow, Klaus Heinrich and Jacobsen, Sven and Garthe, Stefan and Hall, Chris (2017) Solar storms may trigger sperm whale strandings: explanation approaches for multiple strandings in the North Sea in 2016. International Journal of Astrobiology, 17 (4), pp. 336-344. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/S147355041700026X. ISSN 1473-5504.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1017/S147355041700026X

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.

Item URL in elib:https://elib.dlr.de/113401/
Document Type:Article
Additional Information:Corresponding author: vanselow@ftz-west.uni-kiel.de; CC-BY licence 4.0.
Title:Solar storms may trigger sperm whale strandings: explanation approaches for multiple strandings in the North Sea in 2016
Authors:
AuthorsInstitution or Email of AuthorsAuthor's ORCID iD
Vanselow, Klaus HeinrichResearch and Technology Centre Westcoast (FTZ) University of Kiel, Hafentörn 1, 25761, Germanyhttps://orcid.org/0000-0002-7868-3417
Jacobsen, SvenSven.Jacobsen (at) dlr.dehttps://orcid.org/0000-0003-4810-4186
Garthe, StefanResearch and Technology Centre Westcoast (FTZ) University of Kiel, Hafentörn 1, 25761, GermanyUNSPECIFIED
Hall, ChrisTromsø Geophysical Observatory, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, 9037 Tromsø, NorwayUNSPECIFIED
Date:15 August 2017
Journal or Publication Title:International Journal of Astrobiology
Refereed publication:Yes
Open Access:Yes
Gold Open Access:No
In SCOPUS:Yes
In ISI Web of Science:Yes
Volume:17
DOI :10.1017/S147355041700026X
Page Range:pp. 336-344
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:1473-5504
Status:Published
Keywords:sperm whale stranding, migration, North Sea, geomagnetic anomaly, solar storm
HGF - Research field:Aeronautics, Space and Transport
HGF - Program:Space
HGF - Program Themes:Earth Observation
DLR - Research area:Raumfahrt
DLR - Program:R EO - Earth Observation
DLR - Research theme (Project):R - Vorhaben hochauflösende Fernerkundungsverfahren (old)
Location: Bremen , Oberpfaffenhofen
Institutes and Institutions:Remote Sensing Technology Institute > SAR Signal Processing
Deposited By: Kaps, Ruth
Deposited On:25 Aug 2017 11:18
Last Modified:06 Sep 2019 15:15

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