Nature’s Eclipse: How Animals React to a Solar Spectacle

Nature’s Eclipse: How Animals React to a Solar Spectacle

This blog topic is brought to use by one of our readers who inquires that she “would be interested in hearing about any effects the solar eclipse may have had on the animals. Any research available or observations at the zoo?”

With our recent solar eclipse on April 8th, Binghamton was very close to experiencing totality as we had around 97% coverage. Unfortunately we did not have clear skies for the event but we still witnessed that it got much darker as well as a drop in temperature. Though we didn’t experience complete darkness, it looked more like a dark storm rolling in. We were curious as to what we might witness here at the zoo in regards to the animal’s behavior.

For hundreds of years scientists have questioned the effect that an eclipse has on nature especially in the path of totality. “Collecting scientifically meaningful data on animal reactions to total solar eclipses is tough business. The paths of eclipses are scattered around the world, and many are visible only from remote regions. That makes it hard to obtain anything more than a few data points per event.” Not only this aspect needs to be considered but to make a proper claim, there needs to be a baseline of behavior that has been observed during that specific time of day. This adds another obstacle as we can only do so much to predict where and when the next eclipse will take place. Through rigorous work scientists have noticed some unusual behavior such as “orb-weaving spiders destroy their webs during an eclipse”, peaks of activity of “Leaf-cutter ants carrying leaves back to their nest to cultivate a fungus”, “various species of birds and bats suddenly appear during totality”, and “giraffes started running about during the whole totality. When the sun came back, they stopped and began grazing the trees again.”

When it comes to the behavior we noticed here at the zoo, we did not notice anything out of the ordinary. Could we not have seen such a drastic behavior change due to not experiencing complete totality or were the animals not too mindful of it? This is where we begin to expand our research and hopefully be able to test our theories as the next eclipse approaches

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