Under a full moon


The moon was bright and full last night brightening the sky and even making the snow sparkle with color. Seeing the bright moonlight got us to wondering how moonlight nights might effect animal behavior.

There have been many studies effects so we thought it might be interesting to pass along just a few more recent observations we are aware of.

Several phenomenon related to animal behavior have been attributed to the full moon including increased spawning of corals and other reproductive behavior.

The Barau’s petrel, a tropical seabird species, uses the lunar cycle., unlike many other birds with use the sun or length of day, to time mating.

A recent study by Norevik et al. describes how the full moon synchronizes the initiation of the fall migration in the European Nightjar. The abstracts states:

We found that the daily foraging activity more than doubled during moonlit nights, likely driven by an increase in light-dependent fuelling opportunities. This resulted in a clear cyclicity also in the intensity of migratory movements, with occasionally up to 100% of the birds migrating simultaneously following periods of full moon. We conclude that cyclic influences on migrants can act as an important regulator of the progression of individuals and synchronize pulses of migratory populations, with possible downstream effects on associated communities and ecosystems.1

So as we enjoy another night of moonlight skies we can all ponder what other effects the lunar cycles have on the other inhabitants we share the planet with. So much to study and so much still unknown. Do we need to expand our ecosystem to include the moon? the show universe?

1) Norevik G, Åkesson S, Andersson A, Bäckman J, Hedenström A (2019) The lunar cycle drives migration of a nocturnal bird. PLoS Biol 17(10): e3000456. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3000456