Can animals predict earthquakes?

The earliest reference we have to unusual animal behavior prior to a significant earthquake is from Greece in 373 BC. Rats, weasels, snakes, and centipedes reportedly left their homes and headed for safety several days before a destructive earthquake. Anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles, and insects exhibiting strange behavior anywhere from weeks to seconds before an earthquake. However, consistent and reliable behavior prior to seismic events, and a mechanism explaining how it could work, still eludes us. Most, but not all, scientists pursuing this mystery are in China or Japan.

An earthquake forecast was made in China several decades ago, based on small earthquakes and unusual animal activity. Many people chose to sleep outside of their homes and thus were spared when the main earthquake indeed occurred and caused widespread destruction.  However, usually no large earthquake follows this type of seismic activity, and, unfortunately, many earthquakes are preceded by no precursory events whatsoever. The next large Chinese event was entirely unheralded and scores of thousands of Chinese died.

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Do solar flares or magnetic storms (space weather) cause earthquakes?

Solar flares and magnetic storms belong to a set of phenomena known collectively as "space weather". Technological systems and the activities of modern civilization can be affected by changing space-weather conditions. However, it has never been demonstrated that there is a causal relationship between space weather and

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Can some people sense that an earthquake is about to happen (earthquake sensitives)?

There is no scientific explanation for the symptoms some people claim to have preceding an earthquake, and more often than not there is no earthquake following the symptoms.

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Can the ground open up during an earthquake?

Shallow crevasses can form during earthquake-induced landslides, lateral spreads, or from other types of

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Will California eventually fall into the ocean?

No, California is not going to fall into the ocean. California is firmly planted on the top of the earth’s crust in a location where it spans two tectonic plates. The San Andreas Fault System, which crosses California from the Salton Sea in the south to Cape Mendocino in the north, is the boundary between the Pacific Plate

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Is there earthquake weather?

In the 4th Century B.C., Aristotle proposed that earthquakes were caused by winds trapped in subterranean caves. Small tremors were thought to have been caused by air pushing on the cavern roofs, and large ones by the air breaking the surface. This theory lead to a belief in earthquake weather, that because a large amount

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Why are we having so many earthquakes? Has naturally occurring earthquake activity been increasing? Does this mean a big one is going to hit? OR We haven't had any earthquakes in a long time; does this mean that the pressure is building up for a big one?

A temporary increase or decrease in seismicity is part of the normal fluctuation of earthquake rates.  Neither an increase or decrease worldwide is a positive indication that a large earthquake is imminent.

The ComCat earthquake catalog contains an increasing

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Can "MegaQuakes" really happen? Like a magnitude 10 or larger?

No, earthquakes of magnitude 10 or larger cannot happen.  The magnitude of an earthquake is related to the length of the fault on which it occurs. That is, the longer the fault, the larger the earthquake. A fault is a break in the rocks that make up the Earth's crust, along which rocks on either side have moved past each

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Can you predict earthquakes?

No. Neither the USGS nor any other scientists have ever predicted a major earthquake. We do not know how, and we do not expect to know how any time in the foreseeable future. An earthquake prediction must define 3 elements: 1) the date and time, 2) the location, and 3) the magnitude.

Yes, some people

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Are earthquakes associated with variations in the geomagnetic field?

Electromagnetic variations have been observed after earthquakes, but despite decades of work, there is no convincing evidence of electromagnetic precursors to earthquakes. It is worth acknowledging that geophysicists would actually love to demonstrate the reality of such precursors, especially if they could be used for

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Date published: March 1, 2017

New USGS Maps Identify Potential Ground-Shaking Hazards in 2017

New USGS maps identify potential ground-shaking hazards in 2017 from both human-induced and natural earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S.

Date published: June 26, 2014

New Audiences, New Products for the National Seismic Hazard Maps

New Audiences, New Products for the National Seismic Hazard Maps

Date published: April 27, 2011

Media Advisory: "Predictable Earthquakes"

Throughout California April is recognized as Earthquake Preparedness Month. This Thursday's lecture, "Predictable Earthquakes", will provide an update on the current ability of scientists to predict potentially destructive earthquakes and to separate fact from fiction from this intriguing topic.

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Dog trainer stands with scent-detection canine at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
November 21, 2017

Dog trainer stands with scent-detection canine at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge

Mule deer
February 14, 2017

Insights gained from research on mule deer migration could alert managers to when animal movements are threatened by land-use changes.

Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Vessel Seen Through Bird Flock
June 14, 2009

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vessel Tiglax off of Kasatochi Island, Alaska, as seen through a flock of Crested Auklets.

Image shows an aerial view of the San Andreas Fault
November 30, 2000

Aerial photo of the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain. By Ikluft - Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3106006

Image: Seismographs at the U.S. Geological Survey
October 17, 1989

Seismographs at the U.S. Geological Survey record (1) north-south horizontal, (2) east-west horizontal, and (3) vertical components of the earthquake.

Image: Prairie Dog

A prairie dog stands on alert. The USGS National Wildlife Health Center works to identify, track, and prevent wildlife disease. Better protection of prairie dogs against plague would minimize the risk of disease transfer to endangered black-footed ferrets, aid in prairie dog conservation, and protect public health.