Scientists eager to see how animals react to eclipse


How will the sudden loss of light during Monday’s solar eclipse affect members of the animal kingdom?
While researchers already have some idea, they’ll nevertheless spend those four-and-a-half minutes of darkness not looking up, but observing the behaviors of creatures both great and small.
Zoos in Indiana, Arkansas, Ohio, and Texas all plan on monitoring their respective residents’ behaviors as the rare meteorological event unfolds.
7 Ring-tailed lemurs look on as children view a solar eclipse at the Japan Monkey Center in 2012. JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images
7 People look at a display of giraffes and other animals at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas. AP
The solar eclipse will be visible from parts of New York — maybe even the city.
Because eclipses are such infrequent meteorological events, there isn’t a wealth of reliable data on the effects they have on birds, bugs, lizards, and animals that isn’t largely anecdotal.
But scientists did learn quite a bit about how different species respond to these rare occurrences during the “Great American Eclipse” of August 2017.
During that total solar eclipse, zoologists and animal behaviorists at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, South Carolina, documented how 17 different species reacted to the phenomenon.
Their findings were published in the journal Animals, and suggest the sudden light shift creates a conflict within animals, even domesticated ones, between their internal rhythm and the world around them.
While 25% of the zoo’s creatures — including the Komodo dragon — exhibited signs of anxiety with the immediate onset of night, 75% began simply engaging in their nighttime routines.
7 What a total solar eclipse looks like moments before totality. Provided/NASA Scientific Visualization Studio / USA TODAY NETWORK
7 Primates sit in the sun at the Fort Worth Zoo in Fort Worth, Texas. AP
Female gorillas, for instance, “approached the entrance to their indoor enclosure in their typical hierarchical order from the far side of their exhibit,” the paper explains — “a behavior repeated every evening prior to their being secured inside for the night.”
Other creatures, like the typically-docile Galapagos tortoise, went on a mating frenzy and then “gazed up at the sky” as the light started returning.
Everything to know about the 2024 solar eclipse The solar eclipse will take place Monday, April 8, blocking the sun for over 180 million people in its path.
The eclipse will expand from Mexico’s Pacific Coast across North America, hitting 15 US states and pulling itself all the way to the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.
New Yorkers will experience the solar eclipse just after 2 p.m. Monday.
A huge explosion on the sun, known as a coronal mass ejection, is anticipated, according to experts. This happens when massive particles from the sun are hurled out into space, explains Ryan French of the National Solar Observatory in Boulder, Colorado.
To avoid serious injury to the eyes, it is necessary to view the event through proper eyewear like eclipse glasses, or a handheld solar viewer, during the partial eclipse phase before and after totality.
The next total solar eclipse will take place on Aug. 12, 2026, and totality will be visible to those in Greenland, Iceland, Spain, Russia and a small slice of Portugal. Unable to render the provided source
For Monday’s eclipse, many of the same researchers will be holed up at the Houston Zoo, where they’re still looking for volunteers to observe animals during the eclipse. NASA is also seeking volunteers living within the path of totality and on its edge to help them document the effects of the eclipse on all forms of life.
7 A seagull is silhouetted against the sun at dawn during a partial solar eclipse in 2011. REUTERS
Nate Bickford, an animal researcher at Oregon Institute of Technology, told The Post the abrupt arrival of darkness had wild animals exhibiting the same sorts of behaviors they typically display when there’s a fast-approaching storm.
“So, a lot of the wildlife respond to the rapid darkening as though a powerful, nor’easter type storm coming through,” said Bickford, who studied animal behaviors in Nebraska in 2017.
Bickford said analyzing the different creature’s responses also provided insight into which ones rely on barometric pressure to gauge the arrival of oncoming storms, and which rely on the shift in light.
7 An orangutan sits in the shade at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas. AP
“The ones that use barometric pressure, they don’t budge,” Bickford said with a laugh.
Expect songbirds to change course midflight, as they head back to their roosts, Bickford said. You may also spot spiders re-weaving their webs, or hear crickets start to chirp.
How might your pets react, and what, if anything, should you be doing to protect them during the eclipse? If your pet has an regular evening routine, Dr. Sun Kim of Cornell University’s Duffield Institute for Animal Behavior told The Post they may start acting like its bedtime.
7 Vets suggest you keep your pets inside during the eclipse. AFP via Getty Images
“Unless a pet doesn’t have situational anxiety, an owner may not need to be concerned about” the eclipse, Kim said. “For pets with a rare anxiety condition, such as nighttime anxiety, then giving situational anti-anxiety medications would be recommended.”
Kim said to keep them safe, keep your pets inside, and “give them fun things to do” while you go check out the eclipse. “Giving long-lasting food toys will be ideal for pets.”
Start your day with all you need to know Morning Report delivers the latest news, videos, photos and more. Thanks for signing up! Enter your email address Please provide a valid email address. By clicking above you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Never miss a story. Check out more newsletters
Manhattan vet Dr. Lisa Lippman agrees that the safest bet for pet owners is to keep them inside.
“You don’t encourage them to look up or hold up treats,” Lippman said. “You don’t want to be taking animals with you to big outings with a lot of excited people.”
According to Bickford, there’s one species in particular that truly goes wild for eclipses.
“The organism that has the biggest response is human beings,” he said. “It’s fun to watch humans during the eclipse. They’re just excited, right? Yelling and screaming, in a positive way — and primates, they do something very similar to that.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here