Song of the Lost Clan Information and Resources on the Young Adult Novel

How Do Animals Know When an Earthquake is Coming?

August 25, 2011 · By Angela Render

Yet more evidence that elephants, among other animals, sense sound better than we humans do. Just seconds before the magnitude 5.9 quake that shook the East Coast of the United States on August 23, 2011, numerous animals at the National Zoo, including orangutans, gorillas, birds, and elephants made sudden calls and then attempted to move to higher ground.

Attaching cause and effect to animal behavior is difficult, but Scientists speculate that the animals were responding to the P-wave. When an earthquake happens, it emits two types of waves. The first is the fast, weak P-wave. The slower-moving S-wave is what shakes the ground.

Don Moore, associate director of animal care, said: “Elephants, we know from experimental studies, have an infrasonic ability. They can hear sounds underneath the level of sounds we can hear.”

Studies have also shown that elephants can feel vibrations in the ground through the tough, sensitive pads of their feet.

The problem with using animal behavior to predict earthquakes is that they can have the same reaction to any stimuli that would cause a fear reaction. let’s hope the elephant listening project can “translate” elephant sounds so that one day we might ask them – or at least be able to heed an honest warning.

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