Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Death by moonlight? Not always

Date:
October 22, 2013
Source:
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Summary:
Is moonlight dangerous? It depends on what you are, according to a new study. "Ecologists have long viewed the darkness of a moonless night as a protective blanket for nocturnal prey species," said a wildlife biologist.

Collared brown lemur (Eulemur fuvius collaris).
Credit: Luke Dollar

Is moonlight dangerous? It depends on what you are, according to a study published online recently in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

"Ecologists have long viewed the darkness of a moonless night as a protective blanket for nocturnal prey species," said Laura Prugh, a wildlife biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In the dark, creatures of the night can go about their business in relative safety from lurking predators. Moonlight, according to this logic, helps predators find their prey and is risky if you are a prey species trying not to get eaten.

That's not always so, says Prugh, a researcher with the UAF Institute of Arctic Biology, and colleague Christopher Golden of Harvard University.

"The theory that moonlight increases predation risk ignores the fact that prey animals also have eyes, and they often use them to detect predators," said Prugh. If moonlight helps predators to find prey, it could also help prey species to detect approaching predators.

To find out if moonlit nights are dangerous, Prugh and Golden compiled the effects of moonlight reported in existing studies of 58 nocturnal mammal species. If moonlight is dangerous for prey species, they expected predators to be more active on moonlit nights and prey species to be less active.

The researchers found that species ranged widely in their affinity for moonlight, from the moon-loving or lunar-philic lemurs of Madagascar to the lunar-phobic kangaroo rats in the southwestern United States. And, responses to moonlight were related to the sensory systems of species rather than their positions in the food chain.

Prey animals that use vision as their main sensory system, such as primates, were generally more active on bright nights. Prey species that rely mainly on senses like smell or echolocation, such as many rodents and bats, were generally less active. And contrary to expectations, predators such as African lions were less active on moonlit nights.

"Moonlight is indeed risky for some prey species, but only those that use vision as a backup system rather than their first line of defense," said Prugh. "Our synthesis shows that moonlight can benefit visually oriented prey." And as for those lurking predators, the moon may often hurt rather than help their chances of catching prey.

This study is the first to examine moonlight effects across a diverse assemblage of species. Nearly half of all mammals are nocturnal, experiencing lunar cycles that cause light levels to change by three orders of magnitude every month.

"Our results suggest that moonlight alters predator-prey relations in more complex ways than previously thought," said Prugh, who added that she hopes this study will stimulate further research.

"Do lunar cycles affect population growth rates? How do artificial lights affect the hunting success and vulnerability of nocturnal species? These are important questions that we do not currently have answers to," Prugh said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alaska Fairbanks. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Laura R. Prugh, Christopher D. Golden. Does moonlight increase predation risk? Meta-analysis reveals divergent responses of nocturnal mammals to lunar cycles. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12148

Cite This Page:

University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Death by moonlight? Not always." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131022102248.htm>.
University of Alaska Fairbanks. (2013, October 22). Death by moonlight? Not always. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131022102248.htm
University of Alaska Fairbanks. "Death by moonlight? Not always." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131022102248.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Washington Wildlife Center Goes Nuts Over Baby Squirrels

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 30, 2014) An animal rescue in Washington state receives an influx of orphaned squirrels, keeping workers busy as they nurse them back to health. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Experimental Ebola Drug ZMapp Cures Lab Monkeys Of Disease

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) In a new study, a promising experimental treatment for Ebola managed to cure a group of infected macaque monkeys. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

Killer Amoeba Found in Louisiana Water System

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) State health officials say testing has confirmed the presence of a killer amoeba in a water system serving three St. John the Baptist Parish towns. (Aug. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins