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How do animals know that an earthquake is imminent?

How do animals know that an earthquake is imminent?
Andrew Davies from Greater London (age 25-34)


3 Responses

  1. There is a large amount of anecdotal evidence for various animals being able to ‘predict’ imminent earthquakes or even other natural disasters. Some of it is summarized in Rupert Sheldrake’s book ‘The Sense Of Being Stared At’. Scientists are not really sure whether this ability is real – as far as I am aware no detailed scientific studies have been undertaken. However, there is no doubt that many animals have senses that are better developed than our own – dogs, for instance, have a much better sense of smell, and cats much better sight than humans. There is a possibility that animals can either feel the initial shock waves of an earthquake or the sound waves associated with it some time before humans do. The P waves that constitute part of an earthquake travel at a speed of 6.5-8.3 km/s. Sound (and every earthquake causes sound waves, if you’re close enough you can hear them) travels slower than P waves in air – 0.34 km/s. However, in denser materials sound travels faster – in Beryllium it reaches a velocity of 12.5 km/s. It is possible that the sound of an earthquake travels faster through a dense type of rock than the P waves, in which case many animals with their acute sense of hearing would be able to hear the earthquake before the arrival of the shock waves.

  2. Animals have many sensors like the seismographs used to detect earthquakes. Often this is to do with their hunting senses and the fact that they are highly sensitised or attuned to changing natural environments.

    Snakes pick up vibrations / sound waves through their bellies and tongues touching the ground, insects such as cockroaches through their ‘knee ears’, rats and mice through their paws it is often said that rats not only leave sinking ships but also sense buildings about to collapse and leave for places of safety.

    Hoofed animals and horses are also good indicators of changing weather and natural disasters.

    Zoos in earthquake zones such as Japan are often asked to study their animals, especially big cats to sense restlessness to suggest if tremors are likely.

    John Downer’s TV series and books including ‘Supernatural’ featured some of these extra-sensory animals. Well worth seeking out.

    So watching your cat or dog or the local rats and bugs could help to save your life…

  3. I know from personal experience that you can hear an earthquake coming. I was lying in bed one summer night several years ago and distinctly heard it before I felt the room shake. The property was built on clay in the valley of the upper reaches of the River Avon.

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