The physiological, hormonal and behavioral functions of the vast majority of animals (including us humans) are governed by daily rhythms lasting approximately 24 hours. In this way, the body is able to tell us when we should sleep and rest and, on the contrary, when we should be awake and meet our main vital and energy needs. This curious phenomenon of nature allows us to classify the different fauna species, either as nocturnal animals, or on the contrary, as diurnal animals. Animals are rarely active all the time, but are able to alternate moments of great activity with periods of rest. Depending on at what time of the 24 hours of the day the animals are engaged in one or another activity,
Nocturnal animals: characteristics
Without a doubt, the main characteristic that defines the various species of nocturnal animals is their habit of being more active at night .
It is between sunset and sunrise, when the animals meet their main nutritional needs. For this reason, each and every one of the nocturnal animal groups have developed different skills and strategies throughout their evolution to achieve greater success as nocturnal animals. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of nocturnal animals in more detail:
- They have very keen hearing and sight senses. These senses are highly developed to be able to capture the slightest noise within the secrecy of the night and thus determine where their prey are in the dark. Therefore, many of these animals have large eyes , among other characteristics.
- Dark colors of the coat, plumage or scales, thus favoring their camouflage in forests and other natural habitats characterized by their low light at night.
- Stealthy legs (in the case of cats and other mammals), as well as wings that emit as little noise as possible when flapped by nocturnal birds that fly over the night in search of food.
Take note of some examples of nocturnal animals with this list made up of the different large groups of animals:
Mammals with nocturnal habits
- Bats (order Chiroptera)
- Andean night monkey ( Aotus lemurinus )
- Raccoons (genus Procyon)
- Iberian Lynx ( Lynux pardinus )
- Common fox ( Vulpes vulpes )
- Black owl ( Strix Ciccaba huhula )
- Eagle owl ( Bubo bubo )
- Ave huerequeque o alcaraván peruano (Burhinus superciliaris)
It should be noted that the vast majority of nocturnal birds are also raptors or birds of prey .
Nocturnal reptiles and amphibians
- Boa de Tumbes ( Boa constrictor longicauda )
- Geckos (suborden Lacertilia)
- Moths ( Tineola bisselliella )
- Fireflies (Lampyridae family)
- Crickets (family Gryllidae)
- Camel spider (order Solifugae)
Diurnal animals: characteristics
Diurnal animals, on the other hand, are characterized mainly by developing their vital activities during the hours of the day , between dawn and dusk.
Their instincts, based on an internal biological rhythm called the circadian rhythm, are what drives these animals to develop their activities with sunlight and all those other stimuli that nature provides them during the daytime hours. Later, they will spend the night sleeping and recovering energy, always trying to go unnoticed among possible predators.
Some of the characteristics of the most common diurnal animals and that, therefore, all these species share are:
- They have a highly developed sense of sight, having specialized cells that allow them to distinguish a variety of colors and adapt adequately to light conditions.
- Insects follow external patterns typical of the environment and the environment in which they inhabit to control their vital activities (thus using exogenous or external rhythms instead of the internal circadian rhythms discussed above).
- Many diurnal animals adapt to the environmental conditions determined by the seasonal changes of the year, in such a way that their hours of sleep and activity during the day change, depending on the time of dawn and dusk.
- On many occasions, diurnal animals have a restricted period of time to be able to access their main sources of food, since they depend directly on certain hours of light for this.
Diurnal animals: list of examples
This is a list of diurnal animals with examples of the different types or large groups of animals:
- Chipmunk (genus Spermophilus)
- Prairie dog (genus Cynomys)
- Squirrel monkey (genus Simiri)
- Warthog (genus Phacochoerus)
- Falcon (genus Falco)
- Peacock ( Pavo cristatus )
- Herons (family Ardeidae)
- Woodpecker (family Picidae)
Daytime reptiles and amphibians
- Monster of Gila ( Heloderma suspectum )
- Chameleons (family Chamaeleonidae)
- Thorny Devil ( Moloch horridus )
- Frogs (order Anura)
- Bees (superfamily Apoidea)
- Butterflies (order Lepidoptera)
As we have been detailing in the previous sections, the main difference between nocturnal and diurnal animals lies in the hours of the day that they dedicate for the development of their main vital activities, being between dawn and dusk in the case of animals. daytime animals and during sunset and sunrise for nocturnal ones.
This temporal organization, both of the behaviors and of the different physiological processes of the animals, allows them to be easily differentiated into animals with daytime or nocturnal activity. However, the specific mechanisms involved in the circadian control (of the internal biological clock) of the daily rhythms that differ between diurnal and nocturnal species are still unknown . For this reason, currently, there are many scientific studies focused on accurately defining these physiological mechanisms that differentiate nocturnal and diurnal animals.