Video: Did zoo animals anticipate earthquake?

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    >>> we are back. yesterday's east coast earthquake took everyone by surprise, but the national zoo is reporting that some of the animals housed there had noticeable changes in their behavior right before the ground began shaking. apes climbed to the tops of trees lions stood still and leap murals sounded an alarm caldwell before the earthquake hit the nation's capitol. that doesn't suggest that we should all keep an ape other lion in our home, but it does suggest that animals do possess remarkable instincts. joining us is wildlife biologist and nbc science and environmental expert jeff corwin . welcome.

    >> hey there, ron, how are you?

    >> i'm fine. you weren't at the zoo just before the quake hit, but apparently many of these animals reacted. what did they do? did they panic? is that what's going on?

    >> i think we're getting a number of responses here. of course, most of this is based on anecdotal evidence and observations, and really less than scientific evidence , but for many, many years, there have been lots of observations where we have seen animals react to some sort of environmental event, such as an earthquake or a tsunami. we see them go into panic mode, an irritated mode, sort of a fight or flight responsibilities when something like this happens.

    >> we've known about this for a long time, but nobody can quite figure out what's going on. what are the ideas floating around to why animals, but partial not humans should be so sensitive to intending earthquakes? it's an interesting question. and confide a conundrum. i think probably the simplest and most logical explanation is they creatures are is finely tuned, highly plugged into their environment. one-dimensional relationship when it comes to our connection to the environment. it really is in the immediate time and our moment of being around. for example, when we experience an earthquake, it is right there in the moment as it happened. but look at something like a great ape. this is a creature that lives in a multidimensional experience. it is not just faceted to the earth. it is climbing through canopies. moving through branchs. it is experiencing things in a very different way. we can look at biology of animals. for example, creatures likes sharks. they is what is called the lateral line that lateral line allowes this animal to actually sense and pick up pulse like movements from almost half a mile away. or alligators have sensory sites around their pit where they can depekt movement and changes in the water. so it is really ill logical or it is very plausible that these animals are connected and plugged in to the world, especially with something like a geological event. far beyond what the capacity is for human beings .

    >> now, do different animals seem to react in different ways? for instance, i gather that flamingos react in a certain way to this sort of thing?

    >> i think what is interesting about the observations of the way these animals reacted, is that it was very much in tune in the way they manage dangerous situations in the environment where they live. for exam, flamingos sort of rely on safeties in numbers. so literally within seconds of the earthquake, the flamingos began to cluster together. and in a tightly bound flock. and that's very logical. for example wheb these animals get attacked by birds of prey or other predators, they'll come together because chances are, you are less likely to get eaten and you're hoping your neighbor next to you will have worse luck, and he's taken. you look at something like the primates. when the great apes detected something going on, about ten seconds before the earthquake, they climb to the top of their cage as they would probably climb to the top of the canopy in a rain forest . so many of the animals reacted in the way they would in a dangerous situation, in the environment. for example wbt beavers and some ducks immediately took to the water.

    >> yeah and my cats at home fell asleep.

    >> that's those west coast cats. te have seen it before. 5.9 is nothing to them. now, understandably, human beings , having noticed the fact that animals seem to react to earthquakes on the way, have tried in the past to sort of harness this ability of animals. are we having any success whatsoever with that?

    >> well, we look at animal behavior all the time. we augment it and twist and apply it to our own survival and technologies. so above and beyond our ability to manage a situation like this, we're looking at these animals when it comes to flight when it comes to computer technology , and we have actually looked and the physiology of creatures for example like sea turtles and birds, you know, and an animal like something as simple as a pigeon, inside basically above the beak area, there is a region that like a natural compass that allowes this animal to target and accurately fly its way when it is navigating from one point to the other. so we can see that perhaps there is a connection between the change in the earth's geology and that navigating ability and we learn from that ability of nature and apply it to our own technology for survival.

    >> jeff, we got to leave it there. thank you for dropping by. if we see animals heading for the hills, we know what it means.

    >> go under the sofa, put a helmet on.

    >> dive under the dash.

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