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Last month, two oarfish washed up on the shores of Southern California. While these large deep water fish are rarely seen by humans because they live so far below the surface, some think their presence might actually be a warning sign of an upcoming natural disaster. A group of oarfish washed ashore in Japan shortly before the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck the country in 2011. Some scholars believe that deep-sea fish are particularly sensitive to fault movements and so their presence near the surface suggests seismic activity down below. But the belief that animals can predict earthquakes is not new. In 373 B.C. historians recorded that animals, such as snakes and rats, abandoned the ancient Greek city of Helice before a massive earthquake struck. And in 1975, Chinese officials ordered the evacuation of a city called Haicheng after earthquake warning signs, which included hibernating snakes waking up unexpectedly. A 7.3 earthquake hit the region soon afterwards. There’s no consensus on how animals might know an earthquake is coming, but a 2011 study published in the Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health theorizes that rocks stressed by active fault lines release various particles into the groundwater which animals – but not humans -- may be able to sense. The stressed rocks are a precursor to larger seismic activity. This theory may explain why a colony of around 100 toads abandoned its pond before an earthquake struck L’Aquila, Italy in 2009. As for the oarfish, whether or not they can sense seismic activity, they’ve already gotten lots of media attention – and in Los Angeles that’s as common a skill as predicting earthquakes.