Lunar Influence on Life - Natural Science

The lunar cycle affects far more than just the tides on planet earth. It regulates many natural clocks of a variety of species on earth. From a coral reef spawning to the psychological processes of animals and humans, it's force must not be underestimated. A serious inquiry into this subject is often treated as mysticism, however scientific finding often correlates with what the wise of antiquity thought. We know now that certain animals behave differently according to the phases of the moon, while others, even when sheltered from it, may respond to the moon's gravitational influence alone.

The moon has been correlated to fertility through much of human history and culture. Breeding behaviour of many creatures is affected by the phases of the moon, especially those of the oceans that utilise the power of the tides. Predator and prey relationships are also related to the luminosity of the moon to such an extent that it altered our own evolutionary development, as stated in a publication by Packer et. al, "Nocturnal carnivores are widely believed to have played an important role in human evolution, driving the need for nighttime shelter, the control of fire and our innate fear of darkness." - Fear of Darkness, the Full Moon and the Nocturnal Ecology of African Lions.

In the oceans

Correlations between marine life and lunar rhythm are evident. Coral reefs release masses of sex cells, eggs, sperm known as gametes into the ocean to breed on a clock related to seasonal and lunar cycles. The coral releases gametes simultaneously after cues of lunar activity. Due to the variety of species spawning the months and temperature requirements may differ, however the fact that it occurs after the full moon is clear.

Many invertebrates have breeding patterns related to the moon in some way. For example, the Bermuda fireworm breeds right after sunset and only when there is no moon. The Pacific palolo, a worm, is thought to breed when the gonads ripen in response the lengthening dark period of the moon. This has been documented in other creatures too. While many other molluscs, echinoderms, arthropods and chordates have breeding and feeding patterns related to the tidal influence of the moon. There are suggestions that some oceanic plant and animals detect the gravitational force produced by the moon, even when isolated in and remote areas.

On the surface

Plants are affected by the moon. Some studies suggest that the gravitational pull brings groundwater closer to the surface of the soil. This helped farmers of antiquity determine sowing and harvest times. Other studies suggest that seedling planted right before the full moon grow larger than those planted after the full moon.

In animals, the luminosity of the moon affects hunting and foraging behaviours. When there is more moonlight, nocturnal prey animals are more active and even some diurnal animals. Predators have been found to hunt more effectively during dark stages of the moon, where their own nocturnal sight heavily outweighs its prey. Packer et al found that most lion attacks on humans occur during this time.

Concerning physiological and psychological changes, the levels of melatonin and immune capability of a variety of organism are thought to be regulated not only by day-night circadian rhythm but also lunar phases. Some studies also suggest that mental disorders are slightly exacerbated during a full moon.

Many more examples of the moons' effect on behaviour and physiology can be provided. It is evident, though, that the effect of our celestial partner plays a large role in the lives of many creatures on our planet.

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