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Scientists Find More Evidence that Animals Can Sense Earthquakes Before They Happen

It has long been suggested that animals ‘know’ when an earthquake is about to occur: changes in behaviour have been noted in laboratory mice, daily rhythms of ants have reportedly been disrupted, and cows have been observed to behave unusually (in one case an entire herd of cows was witnessed lying down in unison before an earthquake struck). There were reports of elephants and flamingos heading to higher ground before the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami, and more recently of zoo animals acting strangely before an earthquake that struck Washington, D.C. One of the earliest reports of animal behaviour predicting earthquakes is from Greece in 373 BC, when rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes were said to have left their usual homes several days before it struck.

Skeptics on the other hand have suggested that these reports can be dismissed as examples of confirmation bias, where incidental correlations between animal behaviour and earthquakes are remembered and falsely attributed to the existing folk belief, while the many non-manifestations of such behaviour are forgotten.

A particular skeptical mantra is that ‘the plural of anecdote is not data’ – a comment on the non-evidential value of anecdotal reports. When it comes to animal behaviour before earthquakes, however, a new study has gathered actual data on the topic, and perhaps may have even contributed to substantiating the long held belief that animals can sense an earthquake coming.

The researchers took advantage of nine ‘camera traps’ being used in Yanachaga National Park in Peru to track the movements of rarely seen animals. Each time these traps’ motion sensors are triggered, they take a picture, capturing an image of the animal that is moving past the field of view.

Analysing the images over a 30 day period leading up to the 2011 magnitude 7.0 Contamana earthquake, (and comparing with a ‘control’ period not associated with an impending earthquake), they found that the camera traps usually ‘captured’ up to 18 animals a day. However, this number dropped off to much lower numbers consistently around 23 days before the earthquake, and then reduced further just over a week from it striking. In fact, only three animals in total were photographed in the last six days before the earthquake struck, with rodents – the most abundant animal in the forest environment – almost completely disappearing.

Animals captured by camera-trap before earthquake, compared to control

In the paper, the researchers theorise that the changes in behaviour might be caused by the sub-surface grinding of rocks in the lead-up to an earthquake, creating an electric charge that has a number of effects which might be sensed by animals:

  • Emission of ultra-low frequency (ULF) electromagnetic waves that may affect biochemical reactions and disrupt circadian rhythms.
  • Oxidisation of soil organics, creating toxic and/or irritating trace gases, such as carbon monoxide.
  • Ionisation of air molecules – which has been reported to cause blood serotonin levels to increase in animals and humans.

The researchers concluded:

An enhanced air ionisation at the ridge prior to the magnitude 7 Contamana earthquake may have caused the animals to escape to lower altitudes, where they would have been exposed to fewer positive airborne ions. The pre-earthquake anxiety, restlessness and escape reactions of domestic or captive animals, reported anecdotally for many decades, even centuries, may simply be due to the fact that confined animals tend to panic when they are unable to move away from aversive stimuli in their environment. If this correlation can be substantiated by systematically monitoring a wider range of reported pre-earthquake phenomena, this would lead to a better understanding of the premonitory abilities of animals.

Source:Changes in Animal Activity Prior to a Major (M=7) Earthquake in the Peruvian Andes

  1. Animals Able to Sense the Energies
    Sorry for the length…

    I believe the explanation is that animals’ heightened senses can sense the stresses that build up between the shifting plates. They “hear” the energies – like the sound a tightly wound guitar string when twanged makes, and the micro-fractures occurring deep in the crust during the days & weeks leading up to the big break that is the earthquake. This explanation is based on my own experience…

    As mentioned previously in comments, I experienced the vibrations identical to those described by Robert Monroe from the age of 6 on when going to sleep at night. I suppressed these for years out of fear. Eventually they came less often… Fast forward, about 16 years ago in CA we had a mild 5 scale earthquake early one morning. I’d woken up prior to, laid in bed unmoved and still in that relaxed theta state, when the familiar vibrations came. Unusual – this time they were accompanied by what I describe as high frequency orchestral music reverberating inside my head. This went on for several minutes. The “music” was accompanied by cracking, fracturing sounds, like gravel being ground. I continued monitoring this as I was long familiar with the unusual vibrational state and varied phenomena associated with it…

    Then the earthquake began. In this vibrational state, I am completely alert and sense the difference between my internal sensations and external ones. I felt the bed begin to shake and apartment building roll and sway, completely different than the internal vibrations rolling up and down my body and music and grinding in my head. The earthquake built in force and my then girlfriend future wife awoke beside me and started calling my name, saying, wake up we’re having an earthquake. I ignored her so not to stop the experience. She persisted and after her 3rd or 4th time calling my name I lifted my head up and said “I know, I’m awake.” The vibrations, music, whole experience stopped instantly, as it always did when I activated/moved my physical body.

    Conclusion, in my heightened state, my “mind” tuned into the forces (all matter vibrates) being generated by the tension/energy between the plates immediately prior to them breaking loose and I interpreted it musically. This experience was repeated several years later – had the vibrations at night, experienced same music and crackling. Eventually faded and went to sleep. Told my wife and coworkers about it the next morning and laughingly said if we have an earthquake today, I predicted it. That evening, within 24 hours of the experience, we had another 5 scale earthquake…

  2. It’s entirely possible these
    It’s entirely possible these animals are sensing subtle vibrations generated by tectonic movements, although I don’t think we can eliminate other explanations entirely, too. It may have been Sheldrake who mentioned it, I’m not sure, but during WWII there were reports of dogs in London acting out before the German rockets hit their locale–but since the rockets were moving faster than the speed of sound, the dogs couldn’t have been picking up any conventional vibrations. So it was more likely precognitive. Is it possible the animals sensing the earthquakes are drawing on the same abilities?

    1. I agree Jupiter. I lump the
      I agree Jupiter. I lump the vibrations and precognition in the same category of “psychic” as a natural extension of our human/physical existence – along the lines of the Holographic Universe model in which we are all patterns of energy, or Robert Lanza’s Biocentrism in which physical reality requires the interaction of consciousness to take shape.

      Once the paradigm of psychic awareness is accepted – beyond our 5 traditional senses – then sensing frequencies from earthquakes, or from past or future events, or remote viewing, etc… all come into play as variations within our, and potentially animals’ perceptive abilities.

      I had an incredible cat for 7 years who rarely slept (unusual) always studied anything I was doing – beyond the normal curiosity, taught himself to go to the bathroom in the toilet, etc…. He loved lunch meat – sliced chicken. He would be outside – lord knows where in the hills behind my house. The house would be closed up. I’d open my refrigerator, open the drawer and pull out the package of sliced turkey – the process virtually sound free and within a minute or two he’d be meowing at the back door wanting in the house for some turkey. I repeated the experiment numerous times over months once I realized the impossibility of him using any traditional senses of sight, sound or smell to know what I was retrieving – and every time he would appear, yet not when I retrieved any other food product from the refrigerator… I miss him…

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