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Newts taking giant lead over frogs in 'weather forecast contest' at Japan aquarium

This combined photo shows a frog, left, and a newt at Toba Aquarium in Toba, Mie Prefecture. (Kazushige Hayashi)

TOBA, Mie -- Newts are taking an overwhelming lead over frogs in the early stages of the annual "weather forecast contest" taking place at Toba Aquarium in this central Japan city.

    From June 1 to 7, the forecast by Japanese fire belly newts was 43% accurate, compared to just 14% for the tree frogs' prognostications. The contest runs until the end of August. As newts won by a huge margin last year, aquarium staff members are hoping the frogs can catch up this year.

    This is the 10th edition of the weather forecast competition based on the traits of frogs and newts, both of which are highly sensitive to humidity. In two tanks are 10 frogs and 10 newts, respectively. If the frogs are moving around a lot, then the aquarium judges that they are calling for rain the next day. Becalmed frogs means sunny skies.

    Newts, on the other hand, predict sunny weather if they go underwater, and rain by staying on land. If both behaviors are observed, they are forecasting a cloudy tomorrow.

    Toba Aquarium staffer Nanamo Aokura observes tanks for frogs and newts in Toba, Mie Prefecture. (Kazushige Hayashi)

    Aquarium staff members check the creatures every morning and every afternoon, and write down their forecasts on a board.

    In the first week, the accuracy rates of the forecasts a half-day ahead were 43% for newts, and 14% for frogs. It was the same for the forecasts made a full day ahead. During the entire contest period last year, newts nailed the forecast a full day ahead 51% of the time, compared to 37% for the frogs.

    Aquarium staffer Nanamo Aokura said, "By comparing their forecasts, I hope people will get interested in these unremarkable, everyday frogs and newts."

    (Japanese original by Kazushige Hayashi)

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