Find out what science has to say about dogs’ heightened senses.
By Justyne Yuen-Lee
Reports of animals acting strangely before an earthquake are common. From mass migration to whining/barking, and swimming violently, animals seem to be onto something way before humans. But, can we find out why? Perhaps we could tap into the same changes they are reading? Though there is a wealth of anecdotal reports and studies of pre-Earthquake behavior, science has not statistically connected behavioral changes to the onset of an earthquake.
In a comprehensive survey, researchers from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences collected 180 studies; covering 729 reports of unusual behavior prior to 160 earthquakes. They analyzed the data according to quake’s magnitude and distance, “foreshock” activity, and the quality of the study.
The paper, published as Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, is the first of its kind to attempt to quantify statistical data as it applies to animal behavior before an earthquake.
After sifting through the large volume of data, researchers found most evidence was limited to a single observation before the earthquake. To be statistically relevant, the animals populations in the data would have had to be followed over an extended period of time. Longer study would be able to pinpoint unusual responses within the populations that could rule out, or verify, an animal’s ability to sense an earthquake coming.