Lunar BITES: Shark attacks increase during fuller moon phase, study suggests
'It’s not a matter of more light at night for sharks to see. Most shark attacks occur in the daylight,' said Steve Midway, one of the study’s authors
GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA: The moon is a powerful celestial body that possesses the force of influencing the tides of the ocean. While the moon’s impacts on the ocean’s tides are known to all, a new study suggests that the moon’s fuller phases might also influence the creatures that swim within ocean waters, especially sharks.
These ocean predators are more likely to attack during the fuller moon phase including the full moon, suggests a study conducted by the Louisiana State University and the University of Florida. In this study, researchers gathered and analyzed international shark attack data and then compared it to the phase of the moon at that time. “More shark attacks than average occur during periods of higher lunar illumination and fewer attacks than average occur during periods of lower illumination,” the study found.
Although, researchers admitted that they can’t pin down the connection between a fuller moon with shark attacks but pointed out “this is the first global study to report an effect of lunar illumination on shark attacks.”
Researchers say “all the instances of more shark attacks than expected occurred when the lunar illumination was greater than 50%" – meaning during a lunar phase when the moon had more light – and “all the instances of fewer shark attacks than expected occurred at lunar illumination of less than 50%”. However, they argued that “the moon’s effect on tides or electromagnetic fields might have an influence on the frequency of shark attacks during certain moon phases."
“It’s not a matter of more light at night for sharks to see. Most shark attacks occur in the daylight,” Steve Midway, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor at LSU, said in a statement. During the study, the researchers also analyzed “confirmed unprovoked shark attacks from 1970-2016” documented by the ISAF and available data on moon phases from the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Astronomical Applications Department.
They conclude that “although this is not firm evidence of shark attacks preferentially occurring during periods of greater lunar illumination,” it warrants “further investigation.”
With this new study coming to light, the question here is, does the fuller moon also influence the behavior of other creatures? And the answer is YES. As per the research conducted earlier, animal behavior “has been linked to the phases of the moon” before.
The moon possesses the power of affecting the rhythm of not just animals but of humans too, says a study on the lunar cycle published in 2006. National Geographic reported that lunar phases could also affect oysters and zooplankton.
“Moon phase is a well-established influence on animal behaviors, especially those in marine environments,” said researchers from LSU and UF.