Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Animals warn of tsunamis and volcanic eruptions

Animals warn of tsunamis and volcanic eruptions
A German biologist has shown that goats feel impending volcanic eruptions: Now he wants to use the "sixth sense" of other species for early warnings - stations draw on refugee movements. Researchers are convinced that it is possible to use goats and sheep to predict volcanic eruptions
Biologist Martin Wikelski furnished and goats observed on Etna with transmitters: you can based on their movements volcanic eruptions predict. Now he wants to explore the global hikes and directions of escape of animals with satellite.

Suddenly the goats ran away. The animals that grazed on Mount Etna in Sicily, fled from the flanks of the volcano. About six hours later, on the night of 4 to 5 January 2012 lava fountains shot from the Etna, a violent eruption began.

For the researchers led by Martin Wikelski, director at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, it was a first: the first time were able to provide a proof of the advance premonitions of animals scientists.

"We have previously observed specifically and permanently the behavior of goats in the field," says Wikelski. The scientists equipped the animals with transmitters that documented accelerations in different directions.

Elephants, water buffalo and chickens on the run
Based on the patterns of movement recognizes a computer program, whether individual animals sleep, fleeing a dog runs away or a whole herd of the mountainside. It is still unknown why goats best perceive the danger. They may smell the rising magma.

History is full of anecdotes that report, such as elephants, geese, toads or snakes against natural disasters should have warned. In Abruzzo and noticed 2009 Occupant that in the middle of the spawning season, the toads had disappeared from the scene. A few days later the earth shook; around the city of L'Aquila killed more than 300 people.

2015 should start: Icarus - the first satellite program for Research on Migration and animal refugee movements. When the devastating tsunami zurollte almost ten years ago in Southeast Asia to the shores, fleeing elephants, water buffalo and chickens into the interior. "All the reports originated but in retrospect and are very subjective," says ethologist Wikelski the difference to his scientific proof.

His goal is to use the "sixth sense" of animals for comprehensive early warning. "We only see the tip of the iceberg," he says, "every animal captured his surroundings on his special way, we must learn to understand the signals." The general aim was to gain access to the special knowledge that have accumulated over generations of animals in the course of evolution.

The professor at the University of Konstanz and former Princeton professor is anything but a dowser. For many years he conducts research on global animal migrations and equips birds like storks with GPS transmitters from. Now he is building a global biological early warning system that is based on numerous animal species. He and his team travel around the world, captured animals, and equip them with transmitters from.

These include albatrosses because they differ from storms. Frigate birds are considered "living buoys", because they respond to temperature differences on the surface and so may indicate impending hurricanes.

Storks indicate locusts
Large accumulations of storks can turn fear locust plagues. "Of these, at least one fifth of the world's population at risk," says Wikelski. Turtles in the Galapagos Islands, Highland cattle in the Himalayas or fruit bats in Ghana wear the transmitter.

The fruit bats highlights another benefit of wildlife observation: disease control. Because the flying mammals often carry Ebola virus in itself and could be the origin of the current epidemic in West Africa. Wikelskis method DAMN (Disaster Alert mediation using nature, to German about: disaster warning using nature) covers not only the wildlife observation. This also includes the transmission and processing of the data streams and especially their interpretation.

When is about a threshold is reached, in which the population must be warned? It was for the idea and technology a patent "granted in principle", only a final stage for specific regions is still pending.

Great interest in insurance groups
Insurance companies negotiate in Wikelskis information already with the researchers. It is precisely violent volcanic eruptions or earthquakes can not be predicted with today's methods. Thus, the outbreak of the Japanese volcano Ontake on 27 September around 250 climbers suddenly surprised at the summit.

The transmitter of the animals will soon send signals into space, which are collected by the "International Space Station" (ISS) for the planned comprehensive warning system. To date, the travel data yet on mobile radio networks - which are, however, in sparsely populated areas full of dead spots.

The Icarus Project (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space, International Cooperation for animal research using of space) provides that astronauts attach an antenna early 2016 the space station.

Funding for the project million from the German Centre for Aerospace and the Russian space agency. "The problem is currently assisting on the ground," said Wikelski. "We are looking for private investors."

On the Internet, the movements of birds with transmitters can be observed already: In the "Movebank" can about school classes follow the flight of "their" stork.

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