Toads Can Predict Earthquakes

Pick up on pre-seismic cues days ahead of quake
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 31, 2010 8:10 AM CDT
Toads Can Predict Earthquakes
FILE - In this July 22, 2003 file photo, a cane toad sits at Kakadu National Park in Australia's Northern Territory. When cane toads crossed the border of Australia's largest state in 2009, the Kimberley Toad Busters knew the battle against the poisonous pest was on. What they didn't know: that government...   (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

Three days before a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck L'Aquila, Italy, last year, nearby toads left their breeding colony, not to return until several days after the quake. That's unusual enough behavior that the scientist studying the toads think the amphibians must have detected seismic activity—the first-ever evidence of animals in the wild reacting to an earthquake so far ahead of time, BBC reports.

Dr. Rachel Grant tracked several changes: The number of male common toads dropped by 96% five days before the quake; three days before, breeding pairs fell to zero; and no spawn we laid from six days before the quake until six days after. "Our 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," says Grant, who believe the toads fled to higher ground that would be less susceptible to floods and landslides.
(More toad stories.)

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