Can Toads Predict Earthquakes?

Toad Last spring, a group of biologists were studying the mating habits of the common toad (Bufo bufo) in the L’Aquila province of Italy. As temperatures warm each year, male toads gather en masse at small ponds to compete for the affections of females. As part of their study, the scientists ventured out to one particular pond every evening to count the toads and note whether they had laid any new eggs. A few days into their work, something strange happened: the toads scattered. Spawning had only just begun, and where there had been between 80 and 90 male toads for the last few days of March, the first few days of April turned up fewer than ten. Then on 6 April, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit, ravaging L’Aquila province and its capital city of the same name. Hundred of people were killed and thousands injured as buildings that dated to the middle ages crumbled. In a new paper out this evening in Journal of Zoology, the researchers claim this sequence of events is more than just a coincidence. Toads stayed away from the pond for several more days following the quake, before finally returning in force around 15 April. No word on where the toads went, exactly, to flee the disaster. But did the toads sense the coming quake and head for the hills? That’s what the researchers are arguing

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