Toads predict earthquake
Strange fact - the common toad can predict earthquakes. It has an uncanny ability to predict earthquakes several days before they occur, according to a remarkable study that documents for the first time an extraordinary "supersense" in wild animals.
Scientists studying a colony of breeding toads living in an Italian lake found that they suddenly disappeared five days before a huge earthquake struck the town of L'Aquila in central Italy in the early hours of 6 April 2009. Most remarkably, L'Aquila is 74km (46 miles) from the lake.
The toad researchers in this location believe there is no explanation other than the fact that the toads must have been able to detect some changes in their environment. Within days of the earthquake, the toads had returned to their breeding pool to continue spawning.
Although this sort of behaviour in the animal kingdom is not that unusual in that we quite often hear stories about the sensititvity of animals, we don't usually have any proof that the animals did indeed detect something unusual about to happen, in this case, however, the scientists were monitoring the toads long before the earthquake happened.
The study is one of the first to document animal behaviour before, during and after an earthquake. The findings suggest that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system.
The lake where the toads were breeding was being monitored nightly by researchers, who were studying the effect of moonlight on amphibian behaviour. Males of the common toad, bufo bufo, collect in large groups of up to 100 individuals to mate with passing females.
One night, it was apparent that the number of males had fallen dramatically, which was thought may be due to cold weather. However, for the next five nights, not a single toad could be found which was extremely unusual.
Russian scientists suggested that the toads may have been able to detect the release of radioactive radon gas from the ground, or the presence of charged particles in the ionosphere of the night sky, Dr Grant said. If so, it may be an evolved ability to protect the slow-moving animals from the frequent mud slides caused by earthquakes.
The study is published in the Journal of Zoology
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