Can animals predict earthquakes? Italian farm acts as a lab to find out

A German scientist, Mr. Wikelski tagged several animals on a farm in Pieve Torina in the Marches region of central Italy in October to monitor their behavior, hoping that if it changed in some consistent way before an earthquake, it could be used as an early warning system and potentially save thousands of lives. One warm morning this spring, he came back for the findings.

“Wow, it really looks as though something is there,” he said excitedly, watching as his computer crunched the data on the hood of his car in a farmyard jumbled with machinery.

The series of earthquakes in Italy began in August, with other major temblors coming in October and January, accompanied by thousands of aftershocks. The calamity has cost 23 billion euros ($26 billion) in damage, rendered thousands homeless and caused more than 300 deaths. But the consistent shaking of a largely rural and agricultural area has also provided a rare chance to test the ancient theory.