Why Did Daytime Animals Turn Into Night Owls? Scientists Have the Answer


A new study shows that human’s interference with the natural habitat of wildlife made daytime animals change their routine. Scientists have known it for some time, seeing mammals travel to areas where humans are not present so that they can safely look for food.

But researchers found that even camping and hiking can scare the animals and make them more active at night.

Back in 2013, Justin Brashares was in Ghana, studying olive baboons. He is a professor of ecology and conservation at the University of California at Berkeley. He saw that when humans were close by, the primates wouldn’t sleep at night so they can safely get food and take some revenge on humans too.

Looking to understand how much humans changed the way wildlife lives, Brashares focused in a study on how human activities disturb sleep and activity pattern of wildlife. The study was recently published in the journal Science. He and his coauthors reviewed 76 studies which looked at 62 mammal species on six continents. They analyzed the behavior of mammals from Tanzania – lions, otters in Brazil, wild boars in Poland, coyotes in California and tigers in Nepal.

Taking the Night Shift – Getting Food and Wreaking Some Havoc

He said that the animals “become nocturnal not just to avoid people, but to raid crops and prey on livestock.”

The leader of the study is ecologist Kaitlyn Gaynor, (University of California), saying that:

“Animals might be playing it safe around people. We may think that we leave no trace when we’re just hiking in the woods, but our mere presence can have lasting consequences.”

The study found that human presence makes animals 20% more active at night, even though they’re not night owls.

Ana Benitez Lopez (Radboud University, Netherlands) reviewed this study, stating that “no one else has compiled all this information and analyzed it in such a … robust way.”

Kaitlyn Gaynor said that adapting to night could be beneficial to animals so that they can reduce the direct encounter with people:

“Humans can do their thing during the day; wildlife can do their thing at night.”

It’s like we’re sharing the planet “with many other species that are just taking the night shift while we’re sleeping,” concludes Gaynor.


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