How do animals react to a total solar eclipse? American scientists intend to discover | Science

How do animals react to a total solar eclipse? American scientists intend to discover | Science
How do animals react to a total solar eclipse? American scientists intend to discover | Science
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1 of 4 A flamingo pulls its own feathers at the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Friday, February 23, 2024. — Photo: AP/LM Otero
A flamingo pulls its own feathers at the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Friday, February 23, 2024. — Photo: AP/LM Otero

When a total solar eclipse turns day into night in North America, will turtles begin to hatch? act romantic? Will the giraffes start to gallop? And the monkeys will sing out of tune?

“To our amazement, most of the animals did surprising things,” says Adam Hartstone-Rose, a researcher at North Carolina State University who led the observations published in the journal Animals.

While there are many individual testimonies of creatures’ bizarre behavior during eclipses throughout history, only in recent years have scientists begun to rigorously study the creatures. changes in animal behavior wild, domestic and in zoos.

Seven years ago, Galapagos tortoises at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, “who usually do absolutely nothing all day long (…) during the peak of the eclipse, they all started procreating”, says Hartstone-Rose. The cause of the behavior has not yet been clarified.

2 of 4 A mandrill sits in its cage at the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Friday, February 23, 2024. — Photo: AP/LM Otero
A mandrill sits in its cage at the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Friday, February 23, 2024. — Photo: AP/LM Otero

A pair of siamangs, gibbons that usually call each other in the morning, sang unusual songs during the eclipse, which occurred in the afternoon. Some male giraffes began to gallop with “apparent anxiety”. The flamingos huddled around their chicks.

Researchers say many animals exhibit behaviors related to dusk.

In April, Hartstone-Rose’s team plans to study similar species in Texas, to assess whether the behaviors they witnessed in South Carolina point to broader patterns.

Several other zoos in the eclipse’s path are also inviting visitors to help observe the animals, including zoos in Little Rock, Arkansas; Toledo, Ohio; and Indianapolis.

This year’s total solar eclipse in North America takes a different route than 2017 and occurs in a different season, giving researchers and citizen scientists the opportunity to observe new habits.

“Expectations are very high. We have a very short observation period and cannot repeat the experiment,” says Jennifer Tsuruda, an entomologist at the University of Tennessee who observed bee colonies during the 2017 eclipse.

The bees that Tsuruda studied had reduced foraging activities during the eclipse, as usually happened at night, except in the hungriest hives.

“During a solar eclipse, there is a conflict between internal rhythms and the external environment,” says Olav Rueppell of the University of Alberta, adding that bees rely on polarized light from the sun to orient themselves.

3 of 4 Visitors to the Fort Worth Zoo watch a family of gorillas in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Friday, February 23, 2024. — Photo: AP/LM Otero
Visitors to the Fort Worth Zoo watch a family of gorillas in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Friday, February 23, 2024. — Photo: AP/LM Otero

Nate Bickford, an animal researcher at the Oregon Institute of Technology, says that “solar eclipses actually resemble short, fast-moving storms,” when the sky darkens and many animals take shelter.

After the 2017 eclipse, he analyzed data from tracking devices previously deployed on wild species to study habitat use. Bald eagles change flight speed and direction during an eclipse, according to him. So do wild horses, “probably seeking protection, responding to the possibility of a storm on the open plains.”

4 of 4 A lioness and her cub walk through their cage at the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Friday, February 23, 2024. — Photo: AP/LM Otero
A lioness and her cub walk through their cage at the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas, USA, Friday, February 23, 2024. — Photo: AP/LM Otero

Most songbird species migrate at night. “When there is a nocturnal environment during the eclipse, will birds think it is time to migrate and take flight?” asks Andrew Farnsworth of Cornell University.

Your team intends to test this hypothesis analyzing data from weather radars – which also detect the presence of flying birds, bats and insects – to find out if more birds take flight during the eclipse.

Pets that live indoors can react both to what their owners are doing – whether they are excited or indifferent about the eclipse – As for any changes in the skyaccording to Raffaela Lesch, a zoologist at the University of Arkansas.

“Dogs and cats pay a lot of attention to us in addition to their internal clocks,” she says.

VIDEO: What is an eclipse?

The article is in Portuguese

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