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article imageCan ants predict an earthquake before it occurs?

By Leigh Goessl     Apr 14, 2013 in Science
Scientists in Germany are suggesting that some ants appear to be able to predict an earthquake before it hits. A presentation of the finding was recently given in Vienna.
Can ants predict an earthquake? According to researchers in Germany, red wood ants change their behavior "markedly" before an earthquake hits, reports Io9. The scientists believe this change in conduct may perhaps mean these ants feel the earthquake's imminent arrival.
Gabriele Berberich, a researcher at the University Duisburg-Essen, and her team studied the behavior of over 15,000 red wood ants that live along an earthquake fault line in Germany. The study commenced in 2009.
The team followed the ants' behavior for over two years, with 24/7 video surveillance and special software to document behavior changes, reported Weather.com.
During this time frame, 10 small earthquakes ranging from 2.0 and 3.2 magnitude occurred with several smaller shakes. Researchers found the red wood ants changed their behaviors right before any notable tremors occurred; they apparently ignored anything below a 2.0 magnitude shake. Prior to any quake occurring, it was observed the ants left their mounds, even at night when they usually are at rest and hiding from predators.
It took the ants a full day to resume normal activities after an earthquake, said the researchers. It is theorized the ants take note of changing gas emissions in their environment or shifts in the Earth's magnetic field.
"Red wood ants have chemoreceptors for carbon dioxide gradients and magnetoreceptors for electromagnetic fields," Berberich said. "We're not sure why or how they react to the possible stimuli, but we're planning on going to a more tectonically active region and see if ants react to larger earthquakes."
These findings were presented by Berberich at the European Geosciences Union’s annual meeting in Vienna on April 11.
The early results to this study are available online.
More about Ants, red ants, red wood ants, University DuisburgEssen, Earthquakes
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