Apparently, scientists are not really sure how whales find their way when they are migrating. Some theories are the use of sonar, to communicate the way to each other; visual cues, from “spy hopping,” or sticking their heads out of the water to see where they are; and smell, or scent memory of different waters. Whales do live quite a long time, so it is also possible that older whales teach younger whales the migration route. The “when” is different for different species, but is usually connected to food sources and seasons. Whales will go towards the equator and warmer water in the winter, and north to colder water and food in the summer.
Whales may employ a variety of tactics to orient themselves on their journies to breeding grounds, feeding habitat, and other places. We have observed that the main two ways that they do this are though sonar, which feeds back images to the whale in the form of aural information, and magnetic alignment with the poles of the earth. Like birds, whales have what is called “biomagnetite” in thier retinas, which helps them orient themselves.
Unfortunately, because of noise pollution many whales are having trouble getting where they need to go. Often times the sounds of machinery and ships can drown out the mating calls of whales, preventing them from making conrtact.
Generally it is biological prerogatives of feeding and breeding as an intrinsic process of the whale itself that incite the whales’ journies.
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