EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. – Federal officials say 10 pilot whales have died after stranding in shallow water in a remote area of Everglades National Park Wednesday -- but what prompted the giant creatures to beach themselves remains unclear.
Blair Mase of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says 46 whales are swimming in about 3 feet of water, where volunteers were keeping an eye on them. Mase says the whales are short fin pilot whales that are known to inhabit deep water, "so they are very out of their home range."
Pilot whales usually swim in large groups and are one of the most common mass strandings "because they are a cohesive species," Mase said. The phenomenon of whale beachings remains a mystery. Some have speculated that naval acoustic tests are the cause, while others have pointed at parasites or viruses that affect their navigation systems.
Experts also theorize that when one sick animal becomes stranded, its calls of distress can cause an entire pod to respond and strand themselves too, according to Discovery News.
Some beached whales can be saved, depending on their condition. On Tuesday, officials found the whales beached or stranded in a remote area of the park near Highland Beach in northern Monroe County.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.