Beached whales



Whales are air-breathing mammals. However, they die when stranded on a beach for some time. Why?

R. KRISHNAN

Chennai

Most species of whales are very large weighing thousands of pounds and have a brittle and porous skeletal structure.

This is so because in the ocean environment, the water’s buoyancy supports the ‘whale’s enormous weight and the whale is able to swim dive and forage for food (which consists of millions of krill and plankton a day).

However, when a whale is stranded on a beach gravity (in the absence of buoyancy) puts an enormous weight on its body and the whale’s internal organs are crushed by this weight.

During their evolution, whales lost a bulk of their fur for blubber beneath the skin, an excellent and better insulator. Blubber does not act as a thermo regulator and a beached whale would quickly get dehydrated due to over heating and get sunburnt and fall victim to other skin problems.

As most whales consume an enormous amount of food per day they cannot survive on land as they do not have appendages like legs and arms for locomotion and foraging for food. They fall victim to starvation very soon.

On land their huge masses put far too much pressure on their lungs and they can’t expand their lungs to the full and suffocate.

DR. SAINUDEEN PATTAZHY

Associate professor in Zoology

S.N.College, Kollam, Kerala

This week’s questions

All mobile numbers are ten digits. What is the technical reason?

A.Pichai, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu

At the centre of Milky Way Galaxy, there is a huge emission of light. What is the source?

Narendra S., Davangere, Karnataka

Looking at the sun, sneezing comes earlier than normally. Why?

Indrajeet, Hyderabad

Ants are attracted to honey. Do they climb the trees to reach a beehive attracted by the stored honey in it?

Shriya Saha, Gurgaon, Haryana

Readers can send questions/answers on science and technology for the Question Corner along with their names and address to the following email id: questioncorner@thehindu.co.in or to The Editor, The Hindu (Science and Technology), 859-860, Anna Salai, Chennai 600 002.

More In: Science | Sci-Tech