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China deploys head-banging snakes for earthquake prediction

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The bizarre behaviour of snakes is being used as an earthquake sensor in China. The serpents, a winter delicacy in the south of the country, apparently freak out up to five days before a tremor.

Nanning earthquake bureau director Jiang Weisong told the state-owned China Daily: "When an earthquake is about to occur, snakes will move out of their nests, even in the cold of winter. If the earthquake is a big one, the snakes will even smash into walls while trying to escape."

Authorities monitor a 24-hour video feed from a nearby snake farm. The animals can predict a quake up to 120km away, the bureau claims.

The head-banging snakes are not China's first brush with using animal instincts for earthquake prediction. In 1975 authorities ordered the one million residents of Haicheng to evacuate days before a tremor shook the city at 7.3 on the Richter scale, claiming animal evidence predicted the event. Geologist have since claimed a rare series of foretremors alerted instruments. More here.

Anecdotal evidence has long suggested animals are able to sense impending natural disasters. In 373BC the Greek city of Helice was flattened by an earthquake. Contemporary historians said that rats, snakes and weasels deserted the area in the days beforehand. ®

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