The more advanced our society gets, the more we realize the amazing capabilities of not only human beings, but of other animals and all of nature as well. We are relearning what ancient civilizations knew – how nature communicates. Through this relearning, we are gaining vast understanding of how to receive information from the rest of the natural world and this proves particularly helpful in moments of crisis. Some animals and natural responses are able to warn us of approaching danger. Consider the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 that occurred in countries like India, Indonesia and Thailand. It is well documented that the stray and unrestricted animals like cats, dogs, ants and even elephants sought higher ground in the days leading up to the tsunami. They lived through the event while about 228,000 – 230,000 humans did not. This is just one instance where nature provided the warning that many humans simply could not translate. It has been found that animals, including humans, are able to sense changes in electromagnetic fields and that many animals can hear changes in nature called infrasonics which are sound waves too low for the human ear to hear. Many animals can hear these lower level changes and can feel changes in electromagnetic fields and know what those changes mean and adjust their behavior accordingly. We are now beginning to understand that many animals can also see colors that are beyond the capability of the human eye including ultra violet and infrared light imaging. All of these things give the natural world the ability to decipher information and act on it. Now, we are relearning how to read the actions of animals and nature so that we may heed these warnings from and react to them.
Here are a few of the instances I find most interesting:
Turtles warn of flooding
It has been said that seeing a lot of turtles on the roadway is a message that a big rain is coming. Turtles know when there will be a rain storm and move toward higher ground. As they move, they inevitably cross the many roadways we have built in order to reach their destination. If you are seeing more turtles than usual on the roadway you can bet they’re on the move to higher ground and a big rain storm is on the way.
Cows predict bad weather
If you see cows in a big group and many of them are lying down, you’ll know that they are preparing for bad weather. It is not uncommon for herds of cattle to get struck by lightning in which cases many often die. The herding together and lying down is a sign we can notice to tell us if bad weather is on the way.
Sea level can warn of a tsunami
It has been reported that the sea level in an area affected by a tsunami drops rapidly and far below normal levels a few hours before the massive waves and tide comes rolling in. So, if you notice that the ocean level is suddenly much lower than it normally is, this could be nature’s way of warning that a tsunami is on its way and you can be grateful for the warning as you seek higher ground.
Birds tells us of pressure changes in the atmosphere
Quickly lowering pressure in the atmosphere hurts a flying bird’s ears and they seek lower altitude to alleviate that discomfort. If you see large numbers of birds gathering in low areas you can be assured they are either feeding or they are escaping the lower pressure in the air that is causing them distress. This low pressure often indicates a storm is brewing. A study of Golden Winged Warblers flying from Florida to Tennessee and North Carolina discovered that the birds changed their course mid-flight. Birds can hear infrasonics, the very low pitched sounds that humans can’t hear, and scientists believe these sounds are what caused the birds to make their detour. They knew that a massive storm system was coming in the next few days from the center of the country and they adjusted their flight path to avoid it. New research indicates that birds may actually be able to see the magnetic fields of Earth and therefore respond to changes in it. Birds can “see” the Earth’s magnetic field is an interesting article that indicates scientists may have found special chemicals in the eyes of migratory birds, like warblers, that allow them to see changes in the Earth’s magnetic field.
Sharks may predict Tropical storms
Sharks are virtually without boundaries when swimming in the oceans. They can go where they want and do what they want. Scientists have noticed that sharks actually move toward rapid changes in temperature which is where tropical storms usually begin to intensify. A number of organizations are in the process of tagging sharks and tracking their movements through GPS. The University of Miami’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program is one example and they are working with other groups to provide data that can then be used to see if sharks really are quality indicators that a tropical storm is brewing. Fascinating isn’t it?
Dogs predict earthquakes, smell cancer and warn of seizure
I love dogs and so does just about everyone I’ve ever met. Dogs are an extremely studied animal and it is no wonder we are learning about all the different capabilities they have. It goes to show that other animals probably have similarly amazing capabilities but simply need to be studied more to discover those gifts. Records back to ancient China and in Greece as early as 373 BC tell of dogs predicting earthquakes. These accounts also included animals like weasels, centipedes, rats and snakes, but dogs were certainly part of the equation.
It appears that earthquakes give off a fast-moving seismic wave called a P-wave which dogs can sense through their paws. This P-wave is picked up by the dog’s senses before the slower moving S-wave arrives which the dog also notices. This combination is translated by the dog’s brain to mean danger and the dog will begin searching for shelter and may exhibit odd behavior like demonstrating unusual anxiety and howling.
It has been found that dogs can also discover cancer in humans. Illnesses, like cancer, give off their own unique smells and dogs can sense these smells and will many times begin sniffing a person in that area in an unusually intense manner. There are many instances where this type of event has led a person to seek medical attention only to determine that cancer is growing in that place. Studies have shown that dogs may be up to 98% accurate in their detection of cancer. Dogs are also being trained to sense when a person is about to have a seizure. These dogs are trained to comfort the person throughout the seizure and to look for help.
These are some of my favorite messages from the natural world that a problem is coming. I think it is fascinating to think of all the lost understanding that ancient human civilizations once had that technology has allowed us to overlook and forget. Now with the help of science and research we are beginning to take these ancient accounts and develop studies to determine how they work. Coupled with these and new discoveries, I am excited to see what type of natural messaging we will uncover in the coming years.
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Kirschvink, Joseph L. (2000). Earthquake Prediction by Animals: Evolution and Sensory Perception, Bull. Seism. Soc. Am., 90, pp. 312-323.
Quammen, D. (1985). Animals and earthquakes: This World, San Francisco Chronicle, April 21, p. 15-16.
Schaal, Rand B. (1988). An Evaluation of the Animal Behavior Theory for Earthquake Prediction, California Geology, v41, n2.