Can Animals Predict Disaster?


An elephant trumpets wildly, breaks a chain holding it to a tree, and flees to higher ground — just before a massive tsunami crashes ashore, drowning hundreds of thousands of people.

Did the elephant know the deadly wave was coming?

That’s the question explored by NATURE’s Can Animals Predict Disaster?

In interviews with scientists and eyewitnesses, NATURE probes the evidence that some animals may have senses that allow them to predict impending natural disasters long before we can.

Some creatures, for instance, may be able to “hear” infrasound, — sounds produced by natural phenomena, including earthquakes, volcanoes, and storms, that are inaudible to the human ear. This ability may give elephants and other animals enough time to react and flee to safety.

Another explanation may lie in animals’ sensitivities to electromagnetic field variations. Quantum geophysicist Motoji Ikeya has found that certain animals react to changes in electrical currents. He now regularly monitors a catfish, the most sensitive of the creatures he has tested, to aid him in warning others of coming disaster.

Follow NATURE as it reexamines ancient ideas about how animals can predict disaster which are now gaining credence in scientific circles.

To order a copy of Can Animals Predict Disaster?, visit the NATURE Shop.

Online content for Can Animals Predict Disaster? was originally posted November 2005.