Beached whales

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



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.


Associate professor in Zoology

S.N.College, Kollam, Kerala

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