Scientists trying to predict earthquakes are headed back to the drawing board after a recent California quake that took place virtually underneath their instruments. The equipment gave not a clue that it was coming. The quake took place in August near Coyote Lake, Calif., about 60 miles from San Franciso. The tremor was caused by movement along the San Andreas Fault. Indeed, the quake "fell within a dense network of monitoring equipment," making it "probably one of the most thoroughly observed moderate quakes ever to occur in the United States," according to a recent report in Science magazine. "In spite of this good fortune, the data from Coyote Lake have been a disappointment . . . No obvious phenomena [appeared] that could have allowed an accurate prediction." In fact the only indications scientists got were of the nonscientific variety -- a surge of water flowing from a spring about 2 miles away, and some worried callers reporting strange animal behavior . . . . . . But that last finding should be no surprise to biologists at the e University of Texas, who believe that many creatures, catfish to chickens, are equipped to detect and react to faint changes that seem to precede earthquakes. Some animals can hear sounds at very low frequencies, smell gases escaping form the ground and even sense minute changes in the earth's electrical fields, Ruth Buskirk said. But since our communication with animals is rather limited, what good is all this?" "We have our doubts as to whether monitoring animals would be a good way to predict earthquakes," Buskirk said. "But if animals can detect earthquake precursors, our knowledge of animal senses and abilities can be used" to tell scientists what to look for in making their own predictions.