Zooillogix

Stories are emerging all over China of how animals started behaving peculiarly days and hours before Monday’s deadly earthquake. According to a story filed by the Associated Press, one Chinese province was overrun with toads days before it struck, and hours before the quake in a zoo 600 miles west of the earthquake’s center, zebras began banging their heads against the door of their enclosure; elephants swung their trunks wildly and uncharacteristically in a nearby exhibit; lions were awake at during their normal napping times; and peacocks screeched out in unison as if warning their fellow creatures of an impending disaster.

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Slow down, guys. I can’t quite understand you. Are you saying that a volcano’s about to erupt in Chile, a typhoon is about to strike Myanmar, an earthquake will rock China, or a twister’s gonna touchdown in Arkansas?

An old 2003 story in National Geographic explains how animals have long been recorded behaving strangely before natural disasters. Even in 373 B.C. there are…

…accounts of rats, snakes and weasels, fleeing Helice, a city in Greece, days before an earthquake reduced the city to rubble.

Speculating that animals may sense changes in Earth’s magnetic fields that are undetectable to average humans, scientists have conducted a number of experiments on animals with varying results. Other scientists brush off the phenomenon as mere “psychological focusing,” i.e. animals behave this way all the time, but we only notice it when there’s a major disaster afterwards.

Still, it does not take a leap of the mind to imagine that some species of animal may be tuned into frequencies of the Earth that out-of-the-box humans cannot sense. Who knows, maybe some day animals will be widely observed to help us prepare for natural disasters? At least, we might be able to create machines that pick up the same signals that they do.

Comments

  1. #1 Pat K.
    May 15, 2008

    Animals are indeed wise. They all know what’s happening because they have that wonderful connection to prime source. (Insert twilight zone music here.) All joking aside, I believe animals can feel it, sense it, know it, when it comes to good old Mother Nature. What I’d like to know is how we as a species got so DIS-connected from it all. 8^)

  2. #2 Pat K.
    May 15, 2008

    And another thing! We should have a list/blog/thing on what we can learn from observing animals. Here’s a start: Patience, unconditional love, living in the moment-every moment, how to play, holding no grudges-instant forgiveness (except for most cats and some smart hook-bills), incredible focus, allowance (cutting us humans some slack), acceptance. Just for starters. :)

  3. #3 Doug Alder
    May 15, 2008

    Slow down, guys. I can’t quite understand you. Are you saying that a volcano’s about to erupt in Chile, a typhoon is about to strike Myanmar, an earthquake will rock China, or a twister’s gonna touchdown in Arkansas?

    No, no, little Jimmy has fallen down the well :)

    (old Lassie joke for those of you too young to remember Lassie)

  4. #4 Will TS
    May 15, 2008

    “Still, it does not take a leap of the mind to imagine that some species of animal may be tuned into frequencies of the Earth that out-of-the-box humans cannot sense.”

    Yes, it does. We are no longer out-of-the-box humans. We have technology that allows us to detect physical phenomena with sensitivities unmatched by toads, zebras and peacocks. I actually have a machine that can detect the Earth’s static magnetic field. I paid six dollars for it at Wal-Mart. I also have a three-axis flux gate magnetometer that I paid a few grand for that detects changes in magnetic fields that are 0.01% of the total field strength. It has not yet produced a signal that predicts an earthquake. Devices are also available to detect infrared radiation, ultraviolet radiation, x-rays, gamma rays, radio waves, ultrasound, infrasound, seismic compressions, nuclear resonance, electron spin, and a whole bunch of other stuff. How come none of those technologies detect the ‘frequencies’ that are so obvious to toads? Or could people be making it up?

  5. #5 Coturnix
    May 15, 2008

    I am skeptical….

  6. #6 neural
    May 16, 2008

    i have to jump on the skeptical bus too. this sounds very much like a hindsight bias or confirmation bias problem there.

    if the animals do this once a week (and i’m sure among all the keepers you can find anomalies reported every day), it’s only reported when it precedes a catastrophe.

  7. #7 Jade
    May 16, 2008

    I do not think this idea is at all far-fetched. No one is saying that animals are clairvoyant, but it quite believable that they can detect subtle changes in the environment and atmosphere that humans cannot. As humans have progressed and evolved, we have lost touch with nature and our instincts. There are some people who are more in tune with the earth, with animals, with the environment. Perhaps it is a natural �gift,� or maybe they just focus on the subtleties which many of us ignore.
    I do, however, agree that it is difficult to determine what is causing the animal(s) to behave strangely at the time of the occurrence. For example, if the dogs in the neighborhood are howling all night, how am I to determine whether they are trying to forewarn of a natural disaster, or perhaps there is just a female dog in heat somewhere in the vicinty? The next day, as I am standing amongst the rubble which used to be my home, I can say: those dogs must have known something was going to happen. I do agree that more study and attention is needed in this area, in order that we may know what such strange behavior by animals is indicative of at the time (so that it may be of use to us).

  8. #8 Alexandra
    May 16, 2008

    Call me when people all over the country report the animals predicting an earthquake the day before it happens.

  9. #9 Pat
    May 16, 2008

    “Call me when people all over the country report the animals predicting an earthquake the day before it happens.”

    That is what they have been doing for centuries. What we are doing is ignoring them. :-)

    Pat

  10. #10 stogoe
    May 16, 2008

    That is what they have been doing for centuries. What we are doing is ignoring them.

    Bullshit. They’re just acting abnormally. And when it happens to precede an earthquake, only after the event do we pull out the old “animal prescience” canard. If the earthquake didn’t happen, it’s just “your damn dog barking all crazy at the wind” and you quickly forget about it.

    Confirmation bias. Dollars to donuts there’s your culprit.

  11. #11 idoubtit
    May 16, 2008

    This idea is not far fetched. It’s actually pretty naive to think that such a strain does not produce some auxiliary effects.

    Physical precursors are established – increase in radon, change in groundwater conditions or chemistry, earthquake lights. Unfortunately every earthquake is different and they all don’t signal with the same precursors. Some may really ionize the air or generate electrical currents. The Russians are investigating changes in the ionosphere prior to large events. It will be real curious to see if there was monitoring that captured this quake. I did a lot of research on this topic two years back. I still keep up with it. Every EQ seems to bring about these stories (some are obviously selective memories). But there are some quakes that have provocative stories (like the Kobe, Japan quake).

    Check out my blog posts on it. There are references with it. Whispers from the Earth

    I’m a geologist but no expert and know just enough zoology and physics to be dangerous. The entire series of posts was published in a book about anomalies last year. So, the point was that anomalies can lead to new lines of research.

  12. #12 Rick.
    May 18, 2008

    One time, the fish in my fish tank were swimming wildly in their little artificial habitat. I was perplexed. An hour later, I got a toe cramp. COINCIDENCE????

  13. #13 G in INdiana
    May 18, 2008

    Wonder if the animals predicted the 6.1 in Sichuan province yesterday?
    I know our dogs slept through the 5.2 we had almost under neath us here in Indiana. So much for my perceptive animals, they are the sloths of the canine world.

  14. #14 greenbird
    May 18, 2008

    i forgot to look: is there a weblog award for consistently best comments ?? if not here, then where ?? if not now, i would be so…bored. usually i base meterological (only) predictions on the salivular direction of cattle drool…

  15. #15 Gaurav
    May 19, 2008

    The fact that animals could predict disasters was also seen during the December 2004 tsunami, when elephants started screaming and flamingoes refused to breed in low lying areas.
    The sixth sense may be triggered at an earthquake of a magnitude which could be a cut off say for example 6.0
    The story which talks about animals predicting the tsunami can be found at
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/01/0104_050104_tsunami_animals.html

  16. #16 Ben
    May 19, 2008

    Why don’t I hear anyone asking, “why would toads care if there was an earthquake?”

    What would cause an animal (all animals except hu-mans, apparently) to perceive and react to impending earthquakes? What advantage is there to this behavior? If a toad or zebra knew that a quake was imminent, how could evolution possibly have prepared them to better meet it? By running around erratically? By hopping 200 yards to the neighboring pond?

    Imminent thunderstorms: Yes. And I’ve seen it. And I can also predict them with my barometer. I can even tell without my barometer sometimes. Earthquakes: no way.

    Humans as a collective species, with all our instruments and communication, are more ‘in touch’ with the earth than any individual animal.

    I have to agree that this is a case of confirmation bias.

  17. #17 Manduca
    May 21, 2008

    I seem to remember at UC Santa Barbara many years ago someone set up a strange-animal-behavior hotline to see whether there was any correlation between strange behaviors and earthquakes. It was designed so that only calls that came in before the event would count – this would get rid of confirmation bias.

    Does anyone else remember anything about this? It’s the only way to do the study.

  18. #18 Jenbug
    May 27, 2008

    Come on Naysayers, what you’re expecting and what the animals are presenting are two different things. I think both groups are right.

    When a baby cries, it doesn’t have a specific cry for ‘hungry, angry, wet, i has a rash, i am generally displeased with the state of affairs.’ It just feels something it doesn’t like and reacts. An animal’s reaction to extremely subtle stimulae can be seen as a prediction, the animal itself just doesn’t have the capability to articulate or qualify what it’s feeling. There would be no way for it to differentiate between the natural disaster of an earthquake and the natural disaster of its food bowl being empty, and so humans can’t put this ability to any sort of use. I think it’s safe to accept that there is such a thing as an animal predicting an earthquake, but it does no one any good unless you’re willing to drop your socks and take to the hills every time your local toad population get antsy.

  19. #19 KeaponLaffin
    May 30, 2008

    I agree with the Confirmation bias type.
    But there is a pretty good reason for it.
    Say you’re walking in the wilderness, all nice and pleasant, then all the birds start flipping out making a horrid noise and deer, and squirrels and armadillos are running past you all headed in a similar direction. I’d follow the herd. ;)
    I imagine it would be to our evolutionary advantage for humans to instinctually connect ‘critters freaking out for no reason I can see’ = ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’.
    So then we do our confabulation revisionist history thing humans are so good at and it’s all ‘We should have listened to Lassie!’.
    And if everyone started an evacuation the next time their dogs start barking at shadows or their elephant wakes up on the wrong side of the bed…our species is doomed.

  20. #20 svannah
    April 21, 2009

    wat does the grizzly bear and golden lion tamarins have in commen

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