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28 February 2020

Earthquake Left Sperm Whales Dazed And Confused

Kaikoura is a coastal town in New Zealand known for its marine wildlife including a population of sperm whales.

On November 14th, 2016 a serious earthquake shook the region and triggered underwater mudslides into the huge canyon off the coastline.  The mudslides were very noisy and they dramatically changed the shape of the undersea landscape.

Whale scientists noticed that the sperm whales’ behaviour patterns changed after the earthquake; they spent 25 per cent more time at the sea surface. It is very likely that the earthquake affected their ability to find food. Spending more time on the surface means the whales were probably spending time and effort diving and searching for food because of less prey to feed on or having to "re-familiarise" themselves with underwater areas that may have changed.

The whales' behavioural changes lasted for around a year before returning to normal levels.

Find out more about sperm whales.

Sperm whale

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