How Animals And Nature React To Total Solar Eclipse, Scientists Explain

Solar Eclipse 2024: The celestial event will not be visible in India. (Representative pic)

When a rare total solar eclipse sweeps across North America on April 8, scientists will be studying how the phenomenon will affect plant and animal activity on Earth. The solar eclipse, also known as the “Great North American Eclipse”, will be visible in several countries, including the United States, Mexico and Canada. The eclipse will cross North America, creating a spectacle for observers. It will last for just a few minutes, but researchers say that its effect on the natural world will be profound. 

Speaking to ABC News, Angela Speck, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said that plants and animals will begin to react in the lead-up to totality as the light begins to dim. “Once it gets to about 75%, 80% eclipsed, there’s enough sunlight missing that animals will start to react,” she said. 

According to Ms Speck, birds will start to flock about 20 minutes from totality, while some will quiet down. Farm animals, like cows and chickens, will walk back to the barn because they think it is now nighttime. Then, once totality hits, the behaviour will start to change again, the professor said. 

Moreover, as per previous research, bees will stop buzzing during totality and return to their hives. Then, when the sunlight re-appears, the bees will seem disoriented, according to a paper published in the Annals of Entomological Society of America after the 2017 eclipse.

“This transition out of it is probably something that they’re not expecting, and I think that could be a period of confusion,” Brent Pease, an assistant professor at South Illinois University’s School of Forestry and Horticulture, told the outlet. “It’s hard to exactly say what these individuals or animals are experiencing,” he added. 

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According to Mr Pease, crepuscular nocturnal insects, such as crickets, will begin to vocalise as the light dissipates during the eclipse. There is also evidence that spiders will begin to engage in web maintenance, which is a typical nighttime behaviour for them to catch potential meals overnight, Mr Pease explained. 

A study published in 2020 found that during the eclipse, Galapagos tortoises, which are typically slow and lethargic species, get the urge to mate. According to another study conducted during the 2017 eclipse, some plants will close up during totality. 

Researchers will continue to study the impact of a total solar eclipse. It will be another 350 years before a total solar eclipse passes through southern Illinois, Mr Pease said, emphasizing the importance of the research that’s taking place on April 8.