How does an animal or bird sense Earthquakes and natural disasters beforehand?

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A cat listening to a sound
Image of a cat listening to some sounds.

Curiosity Science Biology and Medicine How does an animal or bird sense Earthquakes and natural disasters beforehand?

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  • This is obviously one of the most disputed questions regarding animals and birds. Are animals like dogs sensitive to small earthquakes? Could birds sense the earthquakes minutes before? How do they do this?

  • The underlying mystery is their sharp senses. Animals have a hearing range better than the humans (20Hz to 20,000Hz). During a storm or earthquake, such animals and birds with these sharp senses ranging from very low frequency (infrasound) to high frequency sounds (ultrasound) will detect the foreshocks and go crazy. If humans could hear these low frequency sounds, we would act weird too. AFAIK this is the only plausible explanation that science can confirm yet.

  • Appreciate your answer @joeven. I think you missed the part about magnetoreception in birds and animals. Birds like pigeons have an impeccable magnetoreceptive capabilities! Even the tiniest anomaly in their usual nav or sleep cycle will annoy the bejesus out of them. What’s there to change the magnetic field? Perhaps the P-wave! Or a hurricane… A volcanic eruption… Worth looking into it.

    • Add Bees to this list too. A study shows that they might have a powerful magnetoreception in low-frequency ranges (10 Hz). It’s a beautiful orchestration of senses, isn’t it? :)

  • I think it’s because of their evolutionary traits. Birds and animals could have been more sensitive to disasters in the olden times, passing those escape responses genetically. Combined with their broad hearing ranges and magnetoreception, it is plausible that certain animals and birds can sense disasters prior to the events.

    • Thank you for sharing the link. I followed the citation tables and read about some researches on this subject. There has been a good amount of observational studies in this area since the 1975 Haicheng earthquake predictions. But in most of the findings, human interventions had made it hard to make a clear distinction between a seismic escape response and a normal predatory instinct. Such clear distinctions are only possible if these behavioral patterns are observed closely in different environments. Not so many are into this though.

    • Not so many are into this though.

      This is because there is no practical way in reading animal behaviors whatsoever (that includes humans too). No matter how close people study them, they are going to conclude what is already proven.

    1. Birds/cats/dogs/ hear some weird sounds before the secondary wave.
    2. They freak out just the way any normal life forms would do.
    3. After the events, humans like to believe that there is a sophisticated mechanism to it.
    • Glad you asked. I live with two cats and three hamsters. I have been in an earthquake once. I can tell you that neither of my cats gave a damn about the minute and a half tremor I was in. Anyway, I am not an expert! Just my two cents based on my experience.

    • If your goal is to survive the next earthquake, you will need better pets.

    • I have seen this video before. Look at Sophie freaking out. She would have heard something for sure.

      If your goal is to survive the next earthquake, you will need better pets.

      This is sadly true! :/ Just played some low frequency sounds. My cats are not even trying! They’re like, ‘Whatever dude! We’re just gonna lick our toes and take our naps!’

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