Scientists have long suspected that animals anticipate earthquakes. But so far it has not been possible to prove this: some observations of how their behavior changes before the cataclysm were not enough. A group of European researchers was finally able to explain this phenomenon.
Earthquakes pose a serious threat to people and the environment. In addition, they always start unexpectedly: there are no reliable warning systems that predict the magnitude, location, and time of an earthquake in at least a few hours.
Today it can be predicted on the basis of observations of the terrain and estimates of its seismic activity, but even such an analysis can not be carried out everywhere – information on the activity of regions has been collected only for the last hundred years, and far from all of them. Early warning systems send only hazard reports.
Abnormal behavior of animals shortly before natural disasters people noticed a long time ago. For example, the earthquake in Xichang, China in 1975 was predicted precisely by observing snakes and rats that were hurrying out of their holes. Local authorities drew attention to their strange behavior and evacuated residents the day before the disaster. Despite the fact that there are a lot of such cases, there was not enough data for a full-fledged statistical analysis.
A new study by the Max Planck Society Institute for the Study of Animal Behavior finally confirmed that animals can foresee catastrophes. The results are published in the journal Ethology.
To prove this, it was necessary to observe three conditions: animals must accurately determine the signs of an approaching earthquake, change their behavior, constantly react in a certain way, and their behavior each time should be significantly different from normal. Many reports have not addressed these conditions.
Scientists led by Martin Wickelski provided sensors for several species of potentially earthquake-sensitive animals from a farm in the village of Caprilla in Italy (six cows, five sheep, and two dogs). During the observations, from October 2016 to April 2017, in the region, there were more than 18 thousand tremors with a magnitude of up to 6.6 on the Richter scale. The group selected those that influenced activity in the study area: it was either tremors occurring near the farm, or distant, but strong enough to cause soil movement.
Then the scientists studied the behavior of animals and compared the obtained data with a map of seismic activity. It turned out that it changes in about one to twenty hours: the closer the animal was to the epicenter, the earlier it began to respond to tremors. It turned out that it is easier to recognize changes in the behavior of animals in the group than in individual individuals.