"Hard to put into words how incredible this was."

Sleeptime Gorilla Museum

Millions of people gathered outside to watch the Sun be completely blotted out by the Moon on Monday, casting a massive shadow over much of North America.

The rare cosmological event also triggered a number of strange behaviors among animals, which were seemingly confused by the Sun setting far earlier than expected.

"Our gorilla troop got up and walked to the door like it was time to go in for the night," John Griffioen, who led a team of 40 people at Fort Worth Zoo in Texas, told Sky News.

"Two of our flocks of flamingos got much closer together," he added. "They started vocalizing a lot more, and one of them even started marching, which is a group bonding behavior."

In the wild, animals also reacted to the strange celestial event in unusual ways.

"Hard to put into words how incredible this was," Indiana University associate professor of biology Kim Rosvall tweeted, replying to her colleague, who recalled hearing "hootin’ and howlin'" during the eclipse. "The coyotes and the barred owl really took the cake."

Casting Shade

Scientists have long tried to study how the circadian rhythms of animals are disrupted by a brief moment of night in the middle of the day.

Light is "such a huge cue that affects everything from plants to animals," Cecilia Nilsson, a behavioural ecologist at Lund University in Sweden, told the BBC. "As biologists we can't turn off the Sun but every now and then, nature turns it off for us."

In 2017, a South Carolina zoo witnessed giraffes huddling together and tortoises mating during the strange darkness. Scientists also observed bumblebees that abruptly stopped buzzing in other parts of the country.

But thanks to the fleeting nature of total solar eclipses, it's extremely difficult for scientists to come up with trends or quantifiable behavioral data.

To get closer to an answer, NASA is reaching out to the public and is inviting them to participate in the Eclipse Soundscapes Project, which is designed to learn how life on Earth is affected by solar eclipses.

More on the eclipse: The Solar Eclipse Looks Absolutely Wild From Space

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