Anxiety, Bedtime and Mating: How Animals May React to the Eclipse

While millions of people are preparing to watch the total solar eclipse that will make its way across North America on Monday, the animals in that affected area — in homes, on farms, in zoos and in the wild — missed the news that the moon will block the sun, briefly turning day into night.

How they react to that swift and unexpected change of light and temperature, which in some places will last as long as four-and-a-half minutes, is anyone’s guess.

Cows may mosey into their barns for bedtime. Flamingoes may huddle together in fear. The giant, slow-motion Galápagos tortoise may even get frisky and mate.

Circadian rhythms might take a noticeable hit, with nocturnal animals mistakenly waking up and starting their day only to realize that, whoa, nighttime is already over. And then there will be some animals, perhaps particularly lazy domestic cats or warthogs focused on foraging, who might not give the dark sky a second thought.

“Everybody wants to see how they are going to react,” said Robert Shumaker, the chief executive and president of the Indianapolis Zoo, which will experience nearly four minutes of darkness. It’s one of several prominent zoos situated along the path of totality, a gentle arc stretching from Texas to Maine, where researchers, animal keepers, volunteers and the public will be studying the animals’ response to the eclipse.

Dr. Shumaker, an expert in animal behavior and cognition, said that “most of the animals, of course, they’re going to notice that there’s something unusual happening.”

Back to top button