Why Humans Like to Live in Earthquake-Prone Locations

Cities on fault lines follow a long human trend having to do with biodiversity

This article is from the archive of our partner .

It's a curious fact of modern civilization that some of the world's largest cities are seemingly built right on top of earthquake faults--San Francisco, Naples, Istanbul, and Los Angeles are a few urban centers built on or near tectonic faults. And while it may be easy to chalk these locations up to the foolishness of people who existed long before the advent of the Richter scale, new research published in the Journal of Human Evolution shows that, historically, human congregation around fault lines may have been more than mere coincedence or pre-technological ignorance: tectonically active landscapes may have produced greater biodiversity--more food and water for our early ancestors.

As lead author Dr. Sally Reynolds says in Science Daily: "We were stunned when during a fieldwork trip in South Africa in 2007....[we] discovered evidence that hominin sites...show landscape features in combinations that are not random, but result from tectonic motions, such as earthquakes." Features like cliffs, sedmented valleys, river gorges as well as the creation of wetlands, are created when "sections of Earth's crust move in response to pressure," reports Science Daily, making habitats appealing due to the combination of access to drinking water, available shelter and abundant food sources.

It's worth noting that the inconvenience--and outright threat--posed by earthquakes was significantly less to our ape-like ancestors and their skyscraper-free habitats.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.