Toads have a sixth sense about natural disasters and can predict when an earthquake is about to strike, a new study has found.
According to the researchers from the Open University, male toads would normally remain at the breeding site from the start of the mating season until spawning is complete.
They believe the toads were able to detect environmental changes missed by people, such as the release of gases or charged particles from the ground, before seismic events, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system, reports dailymail.co.uk
"Our study is the first to document animal behaviour before, during and after an earthquake. Our findings suggest that toads are able to detect pre-seismic cues such as the release of gases and charged particles, and use these as a form of earthquake early warning system," said Rachel Grant, who was studying the impact of the lunar cycle on the toads when the earthquake struck.
She believes the amphibians could have evolved to evacuate an area when they sensed the changes associated with a quake.
"An earthquake could wipe out a population in that area. This particular species are very dispersed and can live up to a mile or two from their breeding site. A landslide or flood could wipe out virtually 100 percent of the males, and quite a lot of the females," she said.
"A day after the earthquake, they all started coming back. The numbers were still lower than normal and remained low until after the last aftershock," she added.
While earthquakes are a rare phenomenon, toads have been around on the planet for four hundred fifty million years - long enough to evolve a response to such potentially catastrophic events.