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