Feeds

Italian toads predicted L'Aquila earthquake

Legged it in advance of 2009 event

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

A UK biologist has presented evidence that common toads can predict imminent earthquakes after a colony she was studying hopped it before the major quake which hit L'Aquila, Italy on 6 April 2009.

Dr Rachel Grant of the Open University was routinely monitoring a Bufo bufo population at San Ruffino Lake, some 74km from the epicentre of the event. Five days before the 6.3-magnitude quake, "the number of male common toads in the breeding colony fell by 96 per cent", while "most breeding pairs and males fled" three days before the earth moved.

The BBC explains that the males' behaviour was "highly unusual", since "once they have bred, they normally remain active in large numbers at breeding sites until spawning has finished". In this case, "spawning had barely begun at the San Ruffino Lake site before the earthquake struck".

Grant also noted that spawning at the site ceased "from the first main shock to the last aftershock".

She believes the toads escaped to higher ground "possibly where they would be at less risk from rock falls, landslides and flooding", and their exodus coincided with "disruptions in the ionosphere, the uppermost electromagnetic layer of the earth's atmosphere", which scientists detected around 6 April using very low frequency (VLF) radio sounding.

The Beeb explains: "Such changes to the atmosphere have in turn been linked by some scientists to the release of radon gas, or gravity waves, prior to an earthquake."

Grant, whose research is published in the Journal of Zoology, said: "Our findings suggest that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system."

Cows, however, don't appear to share the same talent. Back in 2008, Swedish scientists discovered that local ruminants were unmoved by a quake which shook southern Sweden, leading one disappointed boffin to conclude that "as a species, cows are not the world’s most earthquake-sensitive animals". ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Protecting against web application threats using SSL
SSL encryption can protect server‐to‐server communications, client devices, cloud resources, and other endpoints in order to help prevent the risk of data loss and losing customer trust.