21 Weird Ways the World Changes in Autumn
Why leaves change color, autumn babies are smarter, and half the world enjoys mating season in unexpected ways every fall.
Squirrels get smarter
During the gray squirrel’s fall caching season, when the critters bury nuts and seeds in hundreds of scattered caches to serve as emergency winter larders, a typical squirrel shows a 15 percent increase in the size of its hippocampus—the memory and emotion center of the brain—compared to the rest of the year. Wondering about the origin of the word “Fall”? This is why Americans use it instead of “Autumn.”
Fall babies are better students
If you’re not a squirrel, don’t fret. Human children born in autumn (September through December) are more likely to excel in school than those born at other times of the year, according to a UK Department of Education report. Here’s what else your birth month can predict about your health and life.
Fall babies are more likely to live longer
Adam Voorhies for Reader's Digest
Meanwhile, children born between September and November are more likely to live to be 100 than those born at other times of year, according to a University of Chicago study of 1,500 centenarians. One theory suggests that exposure to seasonal infections (especially in summer) early in life can have a long-lasting effect on health.
Autumn is good for the economy
At least, in foliage-blessed states like New Hampshire and Vermont. “Leaf peeping,” the slang term for fall leaf tourism, is reportedly a $3 billion dollar business in New England, where millions of out-of-state visitors flock to take in the changing colors. You might want to plan your own trip—this is why fall is the cheapest and best time to travel.
Fall leaf colors are actually present year-round
The gorgeous red, orange, and yellow pigments in fall foliage are actually there all year, just under the surface. Sunlight helps fuel plant cells containing a chemical called chlorophyll, which gives leaves its vivid green color while working to turn light into energy. When sunlight diminishes in fall, chlorophyll breaks down, letting the plant’s hidden red, yellow, and orange hues shine. Bring those bright hues indoors with these expert tips on how to decorate your home for fall. Find out why leaves change color in the first place.
Global warming could affect fall foliage
Relish the fall colors while you can. Scientists think that the rich reds, oranges, and yellows of fall may be one of the many casualties of global warming. Leaves change color in part because of cues taken from dropping temperatures. As temperatures remain warmer through fall and winter nights, they could delay the beloved fall color shift; One 2013 study found that fall colors now arrive five days later than they did 23 years earlier. To see the leaves at their prime, try these 11 best road trips for seeing stunning fall foliage.
Sex drive spikes in the fall
Testosterone levels in both men and women spike higher in autumn than at any other time of year, several studies found. As a result, sex drive increases and men find women even more attractive than during summer months. Do humans have a “mating season” like other animals? One thing is for sure: September is the most popular birth month of the year (here’s why.)
So does love
iStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros
Love is in the air on Facebook, too. An analysis of Facebook data found that more people change their relationship statuses from “single” to “in a relationship” or “engaged” in autumn than the yearly average, while more break-ups occurred in summer. It’s Facebook Official: Fall is for lovers.
Animals get libidinous in the fall too
Other animals have an even more obvious reaction to the fall mating season. The male Siberian hamster’s testes swell 17 times larger on short autumn days than long summer ones, preparing for mating season in the most awkward way possible.
Monarch butterflies peace out
Monarch butterflies, meanwhile, make autumn a migratory season, flying South from America to the relative warmth of Mexico and parts of California. Traveling at speeds of between 12 and 25 miles per hour (that’s just shy of Usain Bolt’s average 27.8 mph footspeed), they are the only insect that migrates up to 2,500 miles for nicer weather.