When Animals Rain From The Sky

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Red-Eyed Tree FrogPhoto: LiquidGhoul; Edited by Muhammed

Imagine walking along a street one day, when suddenly a shower of frogs lands on you! Or fish plop down and stick to your windshield while you’re driving. Would you be startled? Who wouldn’t? What’s going on?

“Raining animals” is a rare phenomenon, but occurrences have been reported throughout history in many different countries. Recently there was a report of Spangled Perch falling in Lajamanu, Australia in March of 2010. The animals most likely to fall from the sky during a rainstorm are fish, frogs, and birds. Sometimes the animals survive the fall just fine, although they are in a bit of a shocked state. This suggests that they have returned to the ground shortly after they have been lifted up… but by what?

Several witnesses to frogs raining down have noted that the animals were healthy, and quickly returned to normal behavior. In some cases, however, the animals have descended encased in blocks of ice. Body parts rather than whole creatures may also appear from the sky. What the heck is going on?

One theory suggests that high winds traveling over water can pick up animals and carry them a long distance before “releasing” them. This aspect of the phenomenon has never been scientifically documented.

A Confusion of BirdsPhoto: Freebies

A French physicist, Andre-Marie Ampere, was one of the first scientists willing to take accounts of raining animals seriously. He suggested that frogs and toads roam the countryside and that strong winds may indeed pick them up and carry them vast distances, but was unable to prove it.

A more recent theory involves waterspouts. The idea is that tornadoes and waterspouts have the ability to pick up animals and “relocate” them to places far away from their origins. A tornado can actually suck up an entire pond, and redeposit its inhabitants in a rain of animals some distance away. The problem with this theory is that it does not explain how all the animals involved in one episode would be of the same species, which tends to be the case with rains of animals.

Atlantic SalmonPhoto: US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

 

Birds and bats are a different story. Whole flocks in flight may be sucked up by thunderstorms and tornadoes, and then rained down in new locations, sometimes directly atop one’s head.

While showers of birds or bats may be fairly easy to understand, showers of frogs or fish remain enigmatic, since neither scientists nor witnesses have been able to document any of the prevailing theories.

So be careful out there—you may end up with frog’s legs in your vegetable soup. The phrase “raining cats and dogs” may not be so far off the mark after all!

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