Friday, November 8, 2013

"Moonlight and Mortality" in the wild

Collared brown lemur (Eulemur fuvius collaris) [Luke Dollar/Astrobiology].
A new study explores effects of moonlight on nocturnal mammals, and the results could change the way scientists think about moonlight and predation. One study found that people in Africa were a lot more likely to get killed by lions on nights following the full moon..

Johnny Bontemps

Say you're a small mammal that enjoys being out and about after dark--such as a kangaroo rat in the sandy grassland of California, or a brown lemur in the forests of Madagascar. What should you fear most: A bright full moon? Or a dark, moonless sky?

"Ecologists have long believed that moonlight increases predation risk for small prey species," says Laura Prugh, a wildlife biologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In the dark, it's harder for lurking predators to spot them and turn them into midnight snacks.

But things may not be that simple. In a recent study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, Prugh and colleague Christopher Golden of Harvard University, compiled the effects of moonlight for 58 nocturnal mammal species. "Contrary to common belief, the results were very variable," Prugh says.

Read the full article from Astrobiology Magazine, HERE.

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