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Scientists predict animals' reactions to total solar eclipse – Executive Summary

Scientists predict animals' reactions to total solar eclipse – Executive Summary

While millions of people eagerly await the total solar eclipse that will cross North America next Monday, the region's animals – whether domestic, wild, in zoos or on farms – seem to be unaware of the astronomical phenomenon that will change the face of the world from day to night. For a few minutes. The rapid and unpredictable change in light and temperature, which can last up to four and a half minutes, is cause for speculation about the animal's reaction.

“Most animals, of course, would notice that something strange was going on,” commented Robert Shoemaker, CEO and president of the Indianapolis Zoo, one of the zoos located along the path of totality, according to the New York Times.

M thinks. Leanne Lilly, a veterinary behaviorist at the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine, says most animals will become disoriented and go into their nightly routine. However, human behavior during the eclipse can affect pets such as dogs and cats. “Any unusual human behavior can upset pets,” Lily explained.

Science has few studies on animal behavior during a solar eclipse, and the few studies available are often conflicting. A study conducted in 1560 states that “the birds fell to the ground.” Other studies indicate that the birds went to their nests, fell silent, or continued singing and chirping. A 1932 study concluded that many animals showed strong reactions: squirrels ran into the woods, and cattle and sheep went to their stables.

In 2017, Adam Hartstone-Rose, a professor at North Carolina State University, conducted a comprehensive study at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina. The scientist noted that nearly three-quarters of the 17 species studied showed a behavioral response to the eclipse. Giraffes, for example, creatures of habit, stopped eating and concentrated in the back of their enclosures. “They are creatures of habit,” commented Alison Provo, curator of mammals at the zoo.

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Galapagos tortoises at the same site gathered together and two of them began mating, a behavior described as a “novelty response.” Dr. Hartstone-Rose also stressed that the behavior of these animals may have been affected not only by the eclipse, but also by the large number of people and noise at the zoo.

Scientists have used various techniques to record animals' responses to the eclipse. During the 2017 solar eclipse, radar data was used to study how flying animals react as day turns to night. Andrew Farnsworth, a visiting scientist at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, noticed that the amount of biological activity in the atmosphere had decreased, indicating that insects were landing and birds were beginning to rest.

Although less well-studied, plants are also affected by eclipses. “When the sun goes down, photosynthesis slows down,” explained Daniel Beverly, an environmental physiologist at Indiana University. Candace Galen, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Missouri, stressed that the eclipse is a kind of “natural experiment” that allows you to study the effects of radical changes in light and temperature on living organisms.