Creature Feature

Creature Feature – Nocturnal Animals

Posted by  //  May 16, 2023  //  Articles, Creature Feature

We know that many creatures in the Animal Kingdom are nocturnal and that this evolutionary adaptation has numerous advantages, but we can’t say with certainty why the trait arose; and while there are some solid theories that may explain why certain animals are active at night, it’s likely these behaviors evolved slowly over time in response to a combination of factors.  

The majority of nocturnal species are mammals, birds, and insects.  A leading theory as to why certain animals are nocturnal states that the trait evolved to help avoid being eaten by dinosaurs and other apex predators that prowled the days back in a time when mammals and birds began expanding as groups.  

Another theory reasons that nocturnal species can better avoid being detected under the cover of darkness.  Although many nocturnal creatures boast heightened senses, it’s still easier to remain undetected at night.  Darkness enables both hunters and hunted to move around with added secrecy—predators often employ ambush tactics, while prey animals use the cover of night to forage more safely.  Since predators have greater success if they hunt when their prey is active, scientists further speculate that they may have evolved to mirror their prey’s habits, such as barred owls hunting flying squirrels.

Additional theories reason how some animals developed nocturnal behaviors to reduce conflict over resources during the day, and that certain desert and tropical dwelling species can avoid scorching heat and conserve hydration by reserving activity for after dark when it’s cooler.  

Article & photo by Margie Manthey

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