German insects can sense earthquakes a day in advance
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German insects can sense earthquakes a day in advance

Published On: Sun, Apr 14th, 2013 | Entomology | By IANS

A new study has suggested ants are able to sense earthquakes before the Earth even lightly shudders.

Short-term earthquake predictions with an advance warning of several hours or days are currently not possible due to both incomplete understanding of the complex tectonic processes and inadequate observations. Abnormal animal behaviors before earthquakes have been reported previously, but create problems in monitoring and reliability.

Germany researchers discovered the red wood ants prefer to build their colonies along active faults, fractures where the Earth ruptures.

Photo Credit: Gabriele Berberich, Universität Duisburg-Essen

Photo Credit: Gabriele Berberich, Universität Duisburg-Essen

The ants’ behaviour significantly changed before an earthquake above magnitude 2.0 hit the area. The behaviour did not nomalise until a day after the earthquake, said Gabriele Berberich, of the University of Duisburg-Essen, in Germany.

Prof.Berberich’ team counted 15,000 ant mounds lining the active faults. She tracked the ants round the clock for three years between 2009 and 2012.
For three years (2009–2012), two red wood ant mounds (Formica rufa-group), located at the seismically active Neuwied Basin (Eifel, Germany), have been monitored 24/7 by high-resolution cameras with both a color and an infrared sensor.

Researchers discovered how the ants would undergo their usual activities during the day before retreating into their mound at night.


Berberich, G.; Berberich, M.; Grumpe, A.; Wöhler, C.; Schreiber, U. Early Results of Three-Year Monitoring of Red Wood Ants’ Behavioral Changes and Their Possible Correlation with Earthquake Events. Animals 20133, 63-84.


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