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Can Animals Predict Earthquakes? Italian Farm Acts as a Lab to Find Out

During a snowy, cold winter that killed many of their livestock, “we were abandoned by the government,” said her husband, Florindo Angeli.

But the data gathered from their farm and the animals that survived may prove critical and will be combined with other data being gathered by the ornithology institute, which tracks many hundreds of animals.

It is part of an international project under a German-Russian lead called Icarus, short for International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space, a satellite-based monitoring system that will track dozens of species outfitted with solar-powered transmitters.

“We will be able to learn from animals from any place anywhere in the world as a collective, and this is such a simple and such a powerful idea,” Mr. Wikelski said.

The United States Geological Survey notes on its website that “anecdotal evidence abounds of animals, fish, birds, reptiles and insects exhibiting strange behavior anywhere from weeks to seconds before an earthquake.” But the federal agency, responsible for recording earthquake activity in the United States, goes on to say that “consistent and reliable behavior prior to seismic events, and a mechanism explaining how it could work, still eludes us.”

Recognizing that many scientists remain skeptical about his line of research, and that many variables remain, Mr. Wikelski said he was eager to carry out experiments on a broader scale.

“Even if we can show that this is something that is being sensed by these animals,” Mr. Wikelski said, he noted that it was only “on one farm in one area of the world, so it’s very limited in what we can say.”

“It’s a huge claim, so we’d better have good proof for it,” he said.

Source: NYT > World

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