Earthquakes and animal behavior: it's in the water

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Earthquakes and animal behavior: it's in the water

Post by Tee on Tue Dec 13, 2011 6:05 am

by Will Parker

For hundreds of years people have been reporting unusual animal behavior prior to earthquakes. Now, scientists say that it may be caused by rock deformations in the Earth's crust which release charged particles that then react with groundwater. The findings, by an international team of researchers led by Friedemann Freund from NASA, appear in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

How animals might be able to sense impending seismic events has been the subject of much discussion in the past, with theories that included ultralow frequency electromagnetic emissions from the ground, luminous phenomena (earthquake lights), changes in the atmosphere near the ground or changes in water chemistry.

The new theory stems from serendipitous research conducted by Rachel Grant of the Open University (UK) on a colony of toads in L'Aquila, Italy, in 2009. Days before an earthquake struck the area, Grant observed the toad population abandon the pond. After publishing her observations she was contacted by Freund who had been conducting research into the chemical changes that occur when rocks are under extreme stress. Freund believed the mass exodus of the toads might be linked to a previously unknown form of electrification that he had observed when rocks are subjected to mechanical stress.

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