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The Moon’s Effect on Animals

Photo Credit: MARIO MORENO/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Everyone can picture a wolf howling at the moon. But, the moon has more of an impact on animals than we may think.

Most people in their lives have had the opportunity to walk outside during a full moon and realize that they don’t need the aid of a flashlight to direct them around. This change in brightness can shape reproduction, foraging, and communication. Scientists have noticed recently that the lunar light impacts the behavior of lions on the prowl, dung beetle navigation, the growth of fish, and the migrations of animals.

Lions, in particular, will take full advantage of a new moon. With it being almost complete darkness outside, they know that it is prime time to make a strike. Animals began responding to this behavior of the lion. Wildebeests, for example, are a very common food option for lions. When the nights were the darkest, wildebeests staked out ground in safe areas. They became riskier when the nights were brighter so they could spot the lions ahead of time.

Buffalos didn’t really respond as astutely as the wildebeests did. They went wherever the food was, regardless if it was bright or not. Scientists did notice, however, that they tended to form herds when it was a darker night. At least they were thinking ahead in terms of safety in numbers.

In the ocean, the moonlight helps baby fish grow. The growth of larvae in particular depends heavily on the temperature of the water. The effect of a full moon is equivalent to 1-degree Celsius increase in water temperature. This light works as a night light for the little babies. It allows them to see and feel safer, thus helping them grow at a faster rate. It helps their survival skills by spotting and hiding from bigger fish.

There are many more examples of how the moon affects the behavior of living organisms. Studies have even been done to check on the behavior of humans during the different phases of the moon. But, those results have been inconclusive.

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