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While ants may appear to be just pesky insects whose sole purpose in life is to annoy humans, they are in reality, quite amazing - they can survive the biggest floods by morphing into living rafts, find their way anywhere, thanks to a built-in GPS and now it turns out, may even have the ability to predict earthquakes - something even the world's best brains have been unable to do, so far!
The discovery of this latest skill, which was presented at the annual European Geosciences Union gathering on April 11th, is a result of a three-year study conducted by a team of German researchers led by Gabriela Berberich. The scientists from the University of Duisburg-Essen began by seeking out the more than 15,000 red wood ant mounds that lie amidst the nooks and crannies of some of Germany's biggest and most active earthquake fault lines.
They then set up video cameras that monitored the insect's movements, day and night. A special software also kept track of any deviation from the normal behavior pattern of the ants. What they discovered, was fascinating.
The ants followed pretty much the same routine every day - Scooting around actively all day, busy with their chores and then resting inside their mounds at night. However, right before an earthquake, they seemed to break that routine by spending the entire night, loitering outside their mounds. It was only after the tremor was over, would they relax and go back to their regular way of life. What was even more interesting, is that they didn't change their behavior for shakes below the magnitude of 2.0, which coincidentally, happens to be the smallest earthquakes humans can discern.
What the scientists are not sure of, however, is how the ants are able to anticipate the shakes. They suspect that it may have to do with them sensing some kind of change in gas emissions or the shifting in the Earth's magnetic field. Now, if only these amazing insects could talk!
Resources: news.yahoo.com, dailymail.co.uk