Mankind has known for some time that the animals that share our planet have better hearing abilities than we do. According to the article "Remarkable Mammal Hearing
," the range of human hearing is approximately 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, but many animals far exceed our limits.
The extraordinary hearing abilities of animals were widely apparent just before the East Coast earthquake earlier this week. ABC News reported several examples of animals at the National Zoo, Richmond Zoo and Baltimore Aquarium seeming to sense the earthquake before it occurred:
- Red-ruffed lemurs began barking an alarm 15 minutes before Richter scales registered the earthquake;
- About 10 seconds before the quake hit, great apes abandoned their food to climb to the top of a tree-like structure. A mother ape let out a shriek and grabbed her baby before scrambling to the top of the structure, while an orangutan began "belch vocalizing," a behavior indicating extreme irritation.
- Ostriches gathered together in a tight, protective flock;
- Dolphins paired up and swam rapidly away from trainers.
I also heard on TV that horses in a mounted patrol became visibly agitated about five minutes prior to the event.
However, as interesting as these stories are, the best example of animal instinct occurred in my own home, thanks to the hearing ability of my own dog. I was working at my computer when Bronson, my Bernese Mountain Dog, suddenly jumped up from a deep sleep and ran to my side, leaning heavily against me. Just as I was wondering what in the world could be wrong with him, I heard a deep rumbling and the house started to shake.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bronson had heard the quake coming, sensed that I was unaware, and moved instinctively to warn me of danger and try to shield me from it. I am very grateful for his keen sense of hearing, and I think I will pay more heed the next time he is trying to get my attention--although hopefully it will be because he is begging for food. I think I'll slip him a little something extra in recognition of his great heart, extraordinary hearing and my new understanding of the term "man's best friend."