The solar eclipse is going to confuse animals — a lot

There's going to be a lot of confused animals come Monday.

The total solar eclipse will turn daylight into an eerie nighttime when the moon covers the sun as the celestial event moves from Oregon to South Carolina. 

While humans will gaze at the spectacle in awe, some animals will be downright befuddled for a couple hours as the day slowly darkens — even in places that only get a partial eclipse.

Early reports of wacky animal behavior during eclipses involve birds. Perhaps the earliest is from a total eclipse in 1544 when “birds ceased singing," while another report from a 1560 eclipse claimed “birds fell to the ground,” according to Science News. 

In one of the first documented scientific studies in 1932, researchers spotted bees returning to hives and chickens to roost during an eclipse in New England.

Orb-weaving spiders in Mexico took down their webs during a total eclipse on July 11, 1991, only to start rebuilding them once the sun reappeared, the National Wildlife Federation reported.

On Monday, most wild animals will likely start their nighttime routine as what they perceive as normal twilight begins, said Bruce Stein of the National Wildlife Federation. 

During previous eclipses, elephants in Africa have been spotted heading back toward their sleeping areas, while chimps in a zoo stared at the sky, "baffled by what was going on," Stein said.

Pets like dogs and cats should be less affected by the eclipse than wildlife, according to Mother Nature Network.

"Totality only lasts a few minutes at most, and an eclipse itself is silent, causing none of the noise that typically scares pets during storms and fireworks," the network's science editor Russell McLendon said.

Zoos and aquariums within or near the path of totality in cities such as Nashville, Columbia and Omaha, Neb., will study animal behavior during this eclipse.

The Tennessee Aquarium will study its lemurs, which have been known to behave "oddly" during eclipses. The Nashville Zoo said it's curious to see how their animals will react to a false dusk, night and dawn taking place over the course of a few hours in the middle of the day.

At the Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, S.C., animals from baboons and elephants to gorillas and sea lions will be observed.

Animal keepers at the Omaha (Neb.) Zoo and Aquarium — which will see a partial eclipse — will keep watch on the behavior of giraffes, bats, butterflies and screech owls, among other animals.

Citizen scientists across the country can also observe and record animal behavior for organizations such as the California Academy of Sciences.

As for flowers and plants there is little information related to what happens to them during a total eclipse, said Douglas Bielenberg, a Clemson University plant physiologist.

“People who have gardens can look for the leaves on the plants to droop, or get in their night positions,” he said. “This will be a great opportunity for people to make and record observations." 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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