Dead birds and fish update: Could shifting Magnetic North Pole be to blame?
The reports of dead birds, fish, crabs and other animals continues to make headline news in the UK.
Click here for an updated story that includes information about thousands of dead fish that have washed up in Chicago’s Lake Michigan.
A story in Monday’s Daily Mail included an excellent recap of the mass animal deaths. The Mail reports that there have been at least nine mass deaths of animals around the world. Those mass deaths include 100,000 fish in the Arkansas River and 2,000,000 dead fish in Chesapeake Bay.
The Mail also explores a theory that has created a lot of buzz on the Internet. Could the shifting of the Magnetic North Pole be the cause of some of the massive bird and fish deaths?
Birds and fish are believed to be guided by magnetism. The animal’s internal navigation systems are thought to be sensitive to changes in the earth’s magnetic fields. Scientists say that the Magnetic North Pole is shifting on average of 25 miles per year.
Birds and fish depend on the earth’s magnetism to guide them to breeding grounds and to warmer waters. Scientists speculate that the animals may be confused about where to go to avoid cold weather.
White turtle doves fall from the sky in Italy
The Daily Mail also expounds on the leading theory on what caused turtle doves to fall from the sky. On Monday, the Mail quoted an expert who believes that the 1,000 turtle doves that fell from the sky in Italy were killed as a result of overeating.
Tests results aren’t back yet but Rodolfo Ridolfi, a director at a regional zoological institute, told the Mail:’We are fairly confident the birds died as a result of massive indigestion brought on by over-eating.”
Wild theories on what is causing the bird and fish deaths
Meanwhile, on Sunday, a lengthy column in The Telegraph is titled: “Aflockalypse now: on a wing and a prayer. Were sinister wildlife deaths around the globe foretold in the Bible, asks Philip Sherwell – or just foul play?”
The author, Philip Sherwell, quoted Karen Rowe, a senior ornithologist with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. She said she doesn’t take calls from the public any longer because she has been swamped with wacky theories of what is causing the bird deaths.
Rowe told The Telegraph that scientists have been accused of covering up the “real” cause of bird and fish deaths.
“I feel like the spoiler at the party when I explain that there is nothing there to justify a conspiracy theory,” the scientist said. “They just got flushed from their roost, crashed into things and died. The only thing this has in common with dead fish in the Arkansas river or dead birds in Louisiana is that they have nothing in common.”
Should we be alarmed about the recent cases and are they connected?
The consensus among scientists is no and no.
In an article posted online Saturday in the Wall Street Journal’s Web site Saturday, Paul Slota, spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey, which has been tracking mass animal deaths since the 1970s. told the paper that mass animal kills are not uncommon.
“In the last 10 years we have logged 188 cases just involving birds with mortality exceeding 1,000 animals per event,” the USGS expert told the WSJ.
See also the Associated Press video on the left. Other experts echoed that opinion to the AP.
More evidence is surfacing that the reports of massive dead birds and fish that were found in Arkansas, Louisiana, Nashville, Tennessee and overseas in Sweden, Brazil, New Zealand and the UK are not unusual.
Thousands of dead crabs washed on shore in England but UK authorities say that cold weather is most likely to blame.
The USGS says mass animal kills happens regularly in nature and some of the deaths could also be related to toxins and loud noise produced by man. The mass bird deaths in Arkansas are thought to be the result of noise from New Years fireworks.
You can read the USGS report for yourself in this link.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that the 2 million dead fish that were found in Maryland may be the result of unusually cool weather.
“It’s colder than it’s been in 25 years,” Dawn Stoltzfus, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment told the Post. “That’s terrible news for the (fish). In 1976, 15 million were killed during a cold snap”
The BBC is also debunking the conspiracy theories which blame the dead birds and fish on everything from BP to a sign from God. One biblical scholar, Harold Camping, has predicted the end of the world will be on May 21, 2011. That has caused more to suspect that the bird and fish kills could be a precursor to the apocalypse. Some have jokingly called it the “aflockalypse.”
The BCC concludes, “But experts insist that what is going on is pretty common and that the incidents are unconnected.”
Could we be hearing more about mass bird and fish kills because there is more reporting of the kills in the media?
Yes. Whereas dead fish washing up on a shore in New Zealand might not ordinarily make worldwide news, it is making news because of the other cases. It may be a bit of a snowball effect. More cases of dead birds and dead fish get reported because more cases of dead birds and dead fish are being reported. The Internet, including Facebook and Twitter, have meant that more people are reporting on incidents that otherwise would go unreported.
According to the Associated Press, massive kills happen on the average of every other day somewhere in North America. But there is generally not a tendency to link them together as there have in these most recent cases.
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