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How Tracking Animals From Space Could Help Predict Earthquakes on the Ground

Scientists will track the movements of more than 10,000 animals to see if their behavior is enough to form a reliable early warning system

A team of researchers from 150 universities around the world is finalizing plans for a global initiative to see if the behavior of animals can form the basis of an effective early-warning system for earthquakes, NBC News reported

There has long been anecdotal evidence suggesting certain animals behave oddly in the hours leading up to an earthquake, apparently because they have some way of sensing when it is about to strike. For example, snakes are thought to flee their dens and become aggressive before a quake. 

Now, scientists are testing that theory by tracking more than 10,000 animals, including birds, bats, cows and bats in quake-prone regions, to see whether their behavior is reliable enough to make an early warning system practicable. The animals have been fitted with sensor-studded radio transmitters which will collect information on the animals and beam it to the International Space Station, then relayed to a lab for analysis. 

“Initial scientific data on earthquakes suggest that some animals can sense these events hours in advance,” says Martin Wikelski, director of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, and leader of the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space initiative, or Icarus. “If we can demonstrate this beyond a doubt, it has the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the future. The problem with current earthquake sensing technologies is that they give you just a few seconds warning time.”

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