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Word of the Week: Crepuscular Animals

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Welcome to Word of the Week where every week we teach you an exciting new word to increase your nature vocabulary! In this week’s blog, you will be learning the word Crepuscular, as in “crepuscular animals”. Remember to keep a close eye on our website as every Wednesday a new word will be added to our library!

What Does Crepuscular Mean? 

Crepuscular [KRA-puss-KEW-ler] (adjective): Describing events or beings that occur or are active during twilight hours.

What are Crepuscular Animals? 

Think about your general sleeping habits. When you think and look back at them how would you describe yourself? Do you consider yourself an early bird, a night owl, or something in between? If you consider yourself an early bird you might be called diurnal, someone who is active during the day. 

However, if you are awake at night and see yourself as a night owl, then you could be called nocturnal, someone who is active at night. But what about those of you who are awake between the hours of daylight and darkness? Well, luckily, there is a term for that too! Beings that are active during these twilight hours are called crepuscular!

Crepuscular animals are active at dawn and dusk, just as most of us humans are pressing snooze on our alarm clocks or winding down for the night. Animals in this group will sleep at night and lie low during the day. Crepuscular animals can be further divided into two subgroups: matutinal and vespertine. 

Matutinal animals are those which are active at dawn, such as some species of honey bees. Vespertine animals are those which are active at dusk, such as flies, moths, and some bats and owls. Plants can be crepuscular as well! Morning glory flowers are matutinal, opening in the early morning, while evening primrose flowers are vespertine, opening at dusk.

How could an animal or plant benefit from being crepuscular? Some scientists think that it could be to do with the amount of light. The dim light of dawn and dusk can provide cover for both predators to hunt their prey or prey animals to hide from predators. Another idea has to do with food availability and competition. 

Since most animals hunt during the day or night, twilight hours are less crowded, allowing animals to avoid competition with similar species. A final reason can be temperature. In places such as the desert, animals may pick times to move or hunt when temperatures are too high or are not too low.

There are some species that will act like both crepuscular and diurnal, depending on things such as competition, and how much food is available. The best example of this is the short-eared owl. Found on the Galapagos islands, these creatures have to share their home with other animals, such as Galapagos hawks and buzzards. 

Because they have to share their home with other species, they will show crepuscular and diurnal behaviour. However, on islands where there is no competition, the short-eared owl will only show diurnal behaviour.

The common nighthawk is another great example. This nighthawk will hunt at dusk, rest at night, and hunt at dawn again. It has this hunting habit because most of the insects it preys on are crepuscular in their nature.

For those that have cats at home, did you know that they are crepuscular animals? Yes, that is correct! Though we see them active throughout the day, their behaviour changes based on the presence of humans around them. They are known to change their sleeping habits to match their owners. 

Crepuscular Animals at High Park 

High Park has some amazing creatures you can spot. Fortunately, there are some here that are crepuscular animals! Let’s explore these animals further. 

Rabbits

Rabbits, just like cats, are very common household pets. Similar to cats they are also crepuscular. It can sometimes be mistaken that rabbits are nocturnal creatures because they sleep all day. This is not true. These creatures will nap during the day and will be more active in the mornings and evenings. Next time, take a closer look at your or your friends’ rabbits sleeping habits! 

Deer

If you have seen a deer active at night you might assume that they would prefer to move around at night. Despite this fact, most deer species are crepuscular. Though they are crepuscular animals, they are also very flexible when it comes to their sleeping habits. They can shift to more diurnal or even nocturnal habits if needed.   

Opossum

Similar to bobcats, opossums like to hunt at night or during the twilight hours. These kinds of crepuscular animals will also like to sleep during the daytime in their shelters which can be hollow trees or logs.

Skunks

Finally, we have the skunk. Like the other animals listed above these creatures are active at dusk and dawn. They will spend most of their time hunting for insects, mice, and rats. During overcast days during the breeding season, they may be out looking for a mate or looking for food after being in their den during the winter season. 

Next time when the weather is nice, set your alarm right before dusk or dawn. Go for a walk and try to see if you spot some of these animals near or around your location! 

Next time when the weather is nice, set your alarm right before dusk or dawn. Go for a walk and try to see if you spot some of these animals near or around your location! 

For our locals or anyone planning a trip to Toronto take some time to come visit High Park Nature Centre! With your friends or family, enjoy some of our classes, special events or even plan a unique birthday party for your kids! For anyone that loves the comfort of their home check out our book clubs, where we recommend some amazing new books! 

If you want to get involved with our initiatives visit our Get Involved page or contact us!

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