Not Your Normal Mass Stranding of Pilot Whales: South Carolina, December 2012
Wayne McFee, NOAA/NCCOS/NOS
1 Feb 2013
Mass strandings of cetaceans have intrigued scientists and the general public for hundreds if not thousands of years and have been the subject of ‘newsworthy’ stories. In particular, long-finned and short-finned pilot whales are the most common cetacean species to mass strand in numbers sometimes exceeding hundreds of individuals. Disputes over the causes of mass strandings range from the ‘lemming effect’ to geomagnetic disturbances to illnesses. Between December 4-6, 2012 three short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) stranded from Edisto Beach to Beaufort, SC, with other unconfirmed reports of stranded pilot whales received from north of Charleston to south of Beaufort. A brief background of pilot whale mass strandings in the United States, hypotheses for their causes, general stranding statistics of marine mammals in South Carolina, the logistics that went in to the mass stranding event in South Carolina, and gross pathology results will be presented. This was the first mass stranding of pilot whales to occur in South Carolina since 1974.
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