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[Slashdot] - Solar Storms Can Mess With Whales' Ability To Navigate, Cause Strandings

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The ocean's most mammoth, docile beasts manage to find their way around the oceans with relative ease. And that's especially true for the gray whale, a creature that makes the biggest migration of any mammal, traveling over 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) across the planet to feed and breed. New research suggests gray whales may navigate with a kind of seventh sense that allows them to detect variations in the Earth's magnetic field -- and this sense can be adversely affected by the sun. From a report: Gray whales are about as long as a school bus and six times heavier than an African elephant. They communicate using low-frequency sounds and navigate the oceans without the help of GPS. In a study published in the journal Current Biology on Monday, researchers examined 186 strandings of gray whales reported between 1985 and 2018. To try to tighten up the data set and remove some variables, the team looked at strandings of whales that were stranded alive with "no signs of injury, illness, emaciation or human interaction." The strandings were then correlated with various measures of solar activity: how many sunspots were present, changes in the Earth's magnetic field and solar radio flux, which is determined by radio frequency noise and has shown to correlate well with sunspot numbers and be affected by solar storms.

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