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Podcast: Can Animals Predict Earthquakes?

by Ryan Schleeter

January 19, 2016

Check out episode nine of Completely Optional Knowledge, the podcast that answers questions you never knew you had. Some things in life are #CompletelyOptional — satisfying your curiosity doesn’t have to be one of them.

Surprised Lemur

What we imagine it looks like the moment a lemur realizes an earthquake is coming. Photo by Helen Haden / Flickr. Creative Commons.

If you could have a head start preparing for an earthquake to hit, wouldn’t you take it?

Ask most residents of San Francisco, one of the most seismically active cities in the country, and they’d say yes.

At least that’s what recent San Francisco transplant Terry Worona thinks. He’s holding out hope that his girlfriend’s chihuahua can give him a leg up on the rest of the city’s human population when the next big quake strikes.

To see if his theory holds up, we tracked down Dr. Rachel Grant, whose research examines how animals’ special “sensitivities” help them stay in tune with changes in the natural world. Using motion-triggered cameras, she and a team of scientists tracked animal behaviors in Peru’s Yanachaga National Park for months before a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook the region in 2011.

Learn about what she found on the latest episode of Completely Optional Knowledge:

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Surprised Cat

This cat is shocked that we would make that pun, but we did. Photo by Tomi Tapio K / Flickr. Creative Commons.

Editor’s note: Dr. Grant reached out to us after recording to clarify that, while her research focuses on wild, free-roaming animals, there have been numerous anecdotal reports of domestic animals behaving strangely before earthquakes, as well.

Want more Completely Optional Knowledge? Have a question you’d like to hear answered on the show? Visit us at completelyoptionalknowledge.org to subscribe! Don’t forget to tune into the conversation on social media using #CompletelyOptional.

Ryan Schleeter

By Ryan Schleeter

Ryan Schleeter is a senior communications specialist with Greenpeace USA covering climate and energy. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Grist, GreenBiz, EcoWatch, and more. Find him on Twitter @ryschlee.

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