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Sensitivity of Fish to Earthquakes


Two Japanese seismologists, Dr. Shinkishi Hatai and Dr. Noboru Abe, observed that catfish (Siluridse) in natural conditions showed signs of restlessness about six hours before earthquake disturbances were registered on their recording apparatus. Since catfish are, ordinarily, placid unresponsive creatures, experiments were made to test this seeming respon-siveness (Science Service, Washington, D.C.). Catfish placed in an aquarium were tested three times a day by tapping on the supporting table. When no earthquake was impending, the fish moved lazily or not at all; but about six hours before a shock the fish jumped when the table was tapped, and sometimes swam about agitatedly for a time before settling down upon the bottom again. Several month's testing showed that in a period when 178 earthquakes of all degrees of severity had been recorded, the fish had correctly predicted 80 per cent of the shocks. They showed no discrimination in their movements between slight local shocks and more serious distant shocks. The experimenters think that the catfish are made sensitive through electrical changes in the earth, since it was only when the aquarium was electrically earthed, through the drain-pipe, that they responded to a coming earthquake.

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Sensitivity of Fish to Earthquakes. Nature 132, 817 (1933).

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