Question Sheet: A Sense of Danger


Before reading:

  1. Why are natural disasters such as earthquakes so hard to predict? 
  2. Why might animals be able to sense danger better than people can?

During reading:

  1. What is a “sixth sense”? How likely is it that animals have such a power? 
  2. Name two ways in which animals might be able to sense things that people cannot. 
  3. What extraordinary sensory abilities do catfish have? Why do you think these senses are so well-developed in catfish? 
  4. What are Pacinian corpuscles? What might they have to do with earthquake detection? 
  5. How are pit vipers unusual? See National Laboratory). 
  6. Why does this article state that for animals “the world must look, smell, taste, sound, and feel very different than it does to us”?

After reading:

  1. If certain animals were able to sense vibrations better than people, how might scientists take advantage of these animals to predict disasters? 
  2. People can train their bodies to do amazing things—run incredibly fast, hold a breath for an amazingly long time, swallow swords, and so on. Do you think that humans could train themselves to predict natural disasters? Why or why not? 
  3. Pick an animal with a heightened ability to sense something. See for Kids) for examples. Describe how this animal’s sensing ability could be put to work for the benefit of people. 
  4. How would a scientist go about testing the hearing of a bat, dolphin, or dog? For examples, see (American Institute of Physics), (Online

    Zoologists), or (University of

    Queensland, Australia).


If you were going to put up centers to detect earthquakes or tsunamis, where would you place them in the world? Why? See (National Earthquake Information Center, U.S. Geological Survey).


  1. Children’s books or movies sometimes feature a dog or some other animal with a heightened sensory ability. Find three examples of books or movies in which an

    animal has some such power. In each case, how realistic is the situation? Could it happen in real life? 

  2. If you were writing a story about an animal that has unusual sensory powers, what animal would you select? How would you start off the story to get across the idea of the animal’s amazing powers? Write a sample opening paragraph to illustrate your idea.


In 2001, a large earthquake struck Ahmedabad, a city in western India. Heavy damage occurred within a 125-mile radius of the earthquake’s epicenter. How many square miles of area suffered heavy damage? For comparison, find a state in the U.S. that has roughly the same area. See (Infoplease).