At precisely 1:51 PM EST, much of the nation panicked, turned to the nearest person, and asked, “Did you feel something?” The 5.9 magnitude earthquake that shook the Eastern seaboard today was the biggest ever to hit Washington, D.C., spanning from its epicenter near Mineral, Virginia all the way to Boston. As we anticipate the inevitable aftershocks in a state of fear and trembling, the Study asks the question on everyone’s mind: Could we have known this was going to happen? Can we predict earthquakes?
Well, we can’t. Despite studying fault lines and poring over historical trends, most scientists are as clueless as the general public at predicting when they might occur. But it turns out there is someone on earth that can predict earthquakes: bufo bufo, the common toad. According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Zoology, an entire population of toads in the throes of mating season abandoned their breeding site five days before an earthquake. The toads were 74 km from the L’Aquila, Italy earthquake when they smelled something funny and scurried away. Picking up on “pre-seismic cues such as the release of gases and charged particles,” the toads were nowhere to be found at a time in the lunar cycle when their site is traditionally packed. All this is to say: If you want to stay ahead of the curve the next time an earthquake strikes, go to the pet shop and get yourself a toad.