Common toads `can detect earthquakes in advance`
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Last Updated: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 14:18
  
London: Believe it or not, common toads can detect quakes up to five days in advance, say scientists.

For centuries, animals, from dogs to rats, snakes and chickens, are said to have behaved strangely before a quake -- but their impulses have never been scientifically established.

Now, a team at The Open University has found that the toads are able to predict imminent earthquakes, after studying a population of common toads outside L'Aquila in central Italy before last year's tremors hit.

They noticed that even though it was the creature's important breeding season, nearly 96 per cent of male toads abandoned the area five days before the earthquake struck in April, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported.

The number of paired toads at the breeding site also dropped to zero three days before the earthquake. No fresh spawn was found at the site from the date that the earthquake struck to the date of the last significant aftershock.

Breeding sites are male-dominated and the toads would normally remain in situ from the point that breeding activity begins, to the completion of spawning, the scientists say.

Lead author Dr Rachel Grant said: "Our study is one of the first to document animal behaviour before, during and after an earthquake.

"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."

It is believed that just before an earthquake radon gas and gravity waves are released from the earth which are then reflected back by the atmosphere and detected by toads, according to the scientists.

The findings have been published in the 'Journal of Zoology'.

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 14:18


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