Ants are able to sense earthquakes before they strike, new research has suggested.
Researchers have discovered red wood ants prefer to build their colonies along active faults, fractures where the Earth ruptures, in Germany.
Gabriele Berberich, of the University of Duisburg-Essen, in Germany, said the behaviour of the ants significantly changed before an earthquake above magnitude 2.0 hit the area. Their behaviour did not return to normal until a day after the earthquake.
Berberich presented her research at the European Geosciences Union annual meeting, in Vienna, LiveScience has reported.
Her team, who counted 15,000 ant mounds lining the active faults, tracked the ants round the clock for three years between 2009 and 2012.
The team discovered the ants would undergo their usual activities during the day before retreating into their mound at night.
But before an earthquake, the ants would stay awake and remained outside the mound during the night, leaving them vulnerable to predators.
The research suggested the ants only changed their behaviour when the earthquake was over magnitude 2, which is the smallest earthquakes humans can feel.
Berberich has suggested the insects are able to predict the earthquakes by picking up changing gas emissions or shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field.