Mass dolphin stranding triggers earthquake fears: Mystery as 160 melon-headed whales wash up on Japanese beaches The mass stranding of 160 melon-headed whales on two beaches in Japan has triggered fears of upcoming earthquake and tsunami. The whales, which are in fact a species of dolphin, were found washed up along a 6-mile (10km) stretch of the Pacific coast of Hokato, around 60 miles (100km) north of Tokyo. Although officials are still investigating the cause of the strandings, they triggered rumours on social media of an impending earthquake. The fears appeared to be based on the appearance of 50 melon-headed whales six days before the devastating undersea earthquake in 2011 that caused a tsunami and left 19,000 people dead. However, experts have dismissed the claims as being ‘unscientific’. For centuries there have been accounts of animals behaving bizarrely before earthquakes. Now scientists have filmed the behaviour of wild animals prior to a quake and believe their study could help improve short-term seismic forecasting. They found that animals in Peru – such as pumas and razor-billed curassow birds – ran for cover days before the event. Researchers believe that the changes in behaviour may be linked to airborne ions. Led by Dr Rachel Grant of Anglia Ruskin University, experts used data gathered from a series of motion-triggered cameras located in the Yanachaga National Park in Peru. The research found that significant changes in animal behaviour began 23 days before the magnitude 7.0 Contamana earthquake that struck the region in 2011. MORE