Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

Can animals predict earthquakes?

Heiko Woith, Gesa M. Petersen, Sebastian Hainzl and Torsten Dahm
Can animals predict earthquakes?
Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America (June 2018) 108 (3A): 1031-1045


In public perception, abnormal animal behavior is widely assumed to be a potential earthquake precursor, in strong contrast to the viewpoint in natural sciences. Proponents of earthquake prediction via animals claim that animals feel and react abnormally to small changes in environmental and physico-chemical parameters related to the earthquake preparation process. In seismology, however, observational evidence for changes of physical parameters before earthquakes is very weak. In this study, we reviewed 180 publications regarding abnormal animal behavior before earthquakes and analyze and discuss them with respect to (1) magnitude-distance relations, (2) foreshock activity, and (3) the quality and length of the published observations. More than 700 records of claimed animal precursors related to 160 earthquakes are reviewed with unusual behavior of more than 130 species. The precursor time ranges from months to seconds prior to the earthquakes, and the distances from a few to hundreds of kilometers. However, only 14 time series were published, whereas all other records are single observations. The time series are often short (the longest is 1 yr), or only small excerpts of the full data set are shown. The probability density of foreshocks and the occurrence of animal precursors are strikingly similar, suggesting that at least parts of the reported animal precursors are in fact related to foreshocks. Another major difficulty for a systematic and statistical analysis is the high diversity of data, which are often only anecdotal and retrospective. The study clearly demonstrates strong weaknesses or even deficits in many of the published reports on possible abnormal animal behavior. To improve the research on precursors, we suggest a scheme of yes and no questions to be assessed to ensure the quality of such claims.

ISSN: 0037-1106
EISSN: 1943-3573
Serial Title: Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America
Serial Volume: 108
Serial Issue: 3A
Title: Can animals predict earthquakes?
Affiliation: German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany
Pages: 1031-1045
Published: 201806
Text Language: English
Publisher: Seismological Society of America, Berkeley, CA, United States
References: 126
Accession Number: 2018-083326
Categories: Seismology
Document Type: Serial
Bibliographic Level: Analytic
Illustration Description: illus. incl. 3 tables, sketch maps
Country of Publication: United States
Secondary Affiliation: GeoRef, Copyright 2018, American Geosciences Institute. Abstract, Copyright, Seismological Society of America. Reference includes data from GeoScienceWorld, Alexandria, VA, United States
Update Code: 201821
Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal