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The total solar eclipse's swath across Wyoming and the United States in August 2017 provided an opportunity for scientists to study a variety of celestial and earthly phenomena, from learning more about the sun's corona to the behavior of animals and plants.
University of Wyoming botany and hydrology doctoral student Daniel Beverly used the eclipse to examine the impact of the moon's shadow on an iconic plant species of Wyoming and the Intermountain West: big sagebrush. He found that the short period of darkness caused a significant reduction in photosynthesis and transpiration in the desert shrub, but not quite to the levels of nighttime.
Rhythm—the - Response - Clock - Humans—was - Changes
Additionally, the circadian rhythm—the response to the internal clock common to nearly all organisms including humans—was interrupted by the sudden changes in sunlight beyond typical cloud cover.
"The reduced temperature and lack of sunshine shocked the circadian clock of big sagebrush, triggering a response far beyond what happens when clouds block sunlight," says Beverly, whose research appears today in the journal Scientific Reports. "However, the duration of eclipse totality was not sufficient to bring the plants completely to their nighttime state."
Scientists - Response - Animals - Eclipses - Findings
Scientists have extensively studied the response of animals to total solar eclipses. Those findings have been mixed, with birds, bees and spiders behaving just as they do at dusk, while no behavioral change was observed in animals such as dairy cattle and captive chimpanzees. On the other hand, very little is known about plant responses to eclipses, either on the small scale or across broad ecosystems. Beverly's study—which involved fellow UW scientists in the Department of Botany, the Program in Ecology...
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