Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Of all natural disasters, earthquakes are notoriously difficult to predict. Establishing a reliable method of predicting quakes so far has eluded scientists, though many have attempted to associate an impending earthquake with various factors such as seismicity patterns, ground movement, weather conditions and animal behavior. The widespread belief that animals can anticipate earthquakes has just gained some credibility with the news that toads may be able to predict imminent quakes. According to a study by British researchers from the Open University, a population of toads showed a dramatic change in behavior five days before the earthquake in Lâ€™Aquila, Italy last year, abandoning their breeding site and not resuming normal behavior until some days after the event. The number of male toads active around the breeding site declined by 96 percent five days before the earthquake while the number of toads at the site fell to zero three days before the quake, even though its epicenter was 74km away. The study, published in the Journal of Zoology, on behalf of the Zoological Society of London, says the reason many reports of unusual behavior before earthquakes lack scientific credibility is that they were made after the event but a feature of this study is that toadsâ€™ activity and breeding behavior was recorded before, during and after the event. Check out articles in the London Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post for more on this story. Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on earthquakes.