The Whale Scientists: Solving the Mystery of Whale Strandings

Overview

They began as land creatures. Then, for more plentiful food, or so scientists believe, whales made the water their home and evolved into the colossal, majestic creatures of the sea that we know today—the same majestic creatures that humans learned to hunt and kill: first for food and then for oil, soap, candles, furniture, and even waspwaist corsets. Rich in meat, blubber, bone, and baleen, the whale served so many purposes for humans that its stranding was seen as a gift from the sea.But now, with their numbers ...

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Overview

They began as land creatures. Then, for more plentiful food, or so scientists believe, whales made the water their home and evolved into the colossal, majestic creatures of the sea that we know today—the same majestic creatures that humans learned to hunt and kill: first for food and then for oil, soap, candles, furniture, and even waspwaist corsets. Rich in meat, blubber, bone, and baleen, the whale served so many purposes for humans that its stranding was seen as a gift from the sea.But now, with their numbers diminished worldwide, whales have become the subject of scientific study. Humans hunt now for a deeper understanding of cetaceans. Why would the world’s largest mammal do something that would most likely cause it to die? Around the world, scientists are trying to find the answer.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The text and color photographs are interesting...the many questions still left for whale researchers should intrigue young readers." Kirkus 10/01/07 Kirkus Reviews

"[T]his is an engaging topic...Photographs scattered throughout keep the look inviting..." Bulletin December 2007 Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Those heartbreaking images of the sea's giant mammals beaching themselves...form the core of this investigative picture book." Columbus Dispatch 11/14/07 Columbus Dispatch

"Hodgkins packs her text with an impressive amount of information...appealing subject and presentation." SLJ Jan 2007 School Library Journal

"Debut author Hodgkins offers a comprehensive overview of whale stranding." Booklist, 12/01/07 Booklist, ALA

"The engaginly designed pages are enhanced by well-captioned photographs." The Horn Book Jan/Feb 2008 Horn Book

Children's Literature
News items about whale strandings are heartbreaking. The scene of one or more such magnificent creatures stuck in the sand, sometimes with marine mammal rescuers rushing to save them, is a lasting one. The accompanying question always is, “why?” Surely, if scientists knew the answer, some of these magnificent threatened or endangered cetaceans could be saved? Part of the “Scientists in the Field” series, this well-illustrated book recounts what people know about whales. For instance, their close prehistoric ancestor did not live in the sea; instead, it resembled a wolf. With charts and text, the first chapter explains cetacean evolution into the baleen and toothed whales we recognize today. An historical overview of whaling, plus information about movements to stop whaling for-profit round out the chapter. Especially interesting is the story of Roger Payne and Scott McVay, who discovered and publicized the humpback’s songs. The second chapter discusses why whales may strand. The sea is a noisy place, made nosier by human devices, such as cargo ships and Navy sonar. Other reasons may be illness or injury. The third chapter is about scientists who seek to find answers, oftentimes using information gathered by necropsies of dead cetaceans that have washed up on beaches. The final chapter, “Triumphs and Tragedies,” tells about people who are intimately involved in whale rescue. This is a thoroughly-researched book that includes a long list of sources, plus an extensive index and glossary. What a find for young adult readers, a library or a high school marine science class. Reviewer: Judy Crowder
School Library Journal

Gr 5-8
Hodgkins packs her text with an impressive amount of information. She begins with the natural history of whales and the history of the whaling industry and ends with the work of conservation organizations in aiding whales that strand. In between she examines several theories scientists are currently exploring to understand why this phenomenon occurs. Well-chosen color photographs amply illustrate the well-organized discussion. End materials lack books or Web sites for children but include a lengthy list of sources and a fine glossary. The multifaceted melding of natural and human history, the work of scientists, and current ecological issues will serve many classroom purposes, and the appealing subject and presentation should be widely enjoyed by nonfiction readers.
—Margaret BushCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Although their ancestors came from the land, whales now live completely in water except when they strand themselves on shore for reasons that scientists are now trying to understand. This latest addition to the Scientists in the Field series focuses more on the animals than the researchers, describing whales' transformation from land to water mammal over the passage of eons, their first encounters with humans and the extensive whale-hunting industry before turning to the various scientific theories about their strandings. The author clearly explains the various possibilities: hearing damage, echolocation confused by shallow bays, magnetic variations, weather, illness and injury, toxins and whale social structure. Another chapter describes necropsies, DNA research and investigations of the cetacean ear. Finally, she presents two stranding events with very different endings. The text and color photographs are interesting and informative, although the lack of particular human focus distances the subject in ways that other volumes in the series do not. Still, the topic is new and the many questions still left for whale researchers should intrigue young readers. (bibliography, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 9-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618556731
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 11/12/2007
  • Series: Scientists in the Field Series
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 10 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1140L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Fran Hodgkins's lifelong passion for marine biology and journalism inspired her to write about the very creatures that captured her imagination when she was a child.Fran now lives outside Baltimore, Maryland.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 19, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jennifer Wardrip, aka "The Genius" for TeensReadToo.com

    Whale strandings are, unfortunately, a very real problem. In 2002 alone, the Cape Cod Stranding Network responded to 296 strandings, including one mass stranding. So what, exactly, causes whales to become stranded on the beach? <BR/><BR/>Scientists and marine biologists have no clear-cut answers, but they have several theories. Hearing damage, confusing geography, magnetic attractions, illness and injury, toxins, and instinctual whale behavior all seem to play a part in causing whales to strand. Whales, by nature, are pod mammals, and their very reluctance to leave an injured or sick member of their pod very often leads to mass strandings. Fishing nets and the hunting of whales also seems to play a part in confusing these gentle creatures. <BR/><BR/>There are several agencies throughout the United States -- and the world -- who work diligently to rescue those stranded whales who wash up on shore alive. For those who are already dead, or who die quickly after being stranded, necropsies (autopsies on animals) are performed to determine not only the cause of death, but to help in prevention of further strandings in the future. <BR/><BR/>THE WHALE SCIENTISTS is an informative look at a widespread problem that is perfect for either a classroom library or those who are looking for an in-depth look at whale strandings.

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