, Volume 146, Issue 4, pp 659-666
Date: 05 Nov 2005

Activity levels of bats and katydids in relation to the lunar cycle

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Animals are exposed to many conflicting ecological pressures, and the effect of one may often obscure that of another. A likely example of this is the so-called “lunar phobia” or reduced activity of bats during full moon. The main reason for lunar phobia was thought to be that bats adjust their activity to avoid predators. However, bats can be prey, but many are carnivorous and therefore predators themselves. Thus, they are likely to be influenced by prey availability as well as predation risk. We investigated the activity patterns of the perch-hunting Lophostoma silvicolum and one of its main types of prey, katydids, to assess the influence of the former during different phases of the lunar cycle on a gleaning insectivorous bat. To avoid sampling bias, we used sound recordings and two different capture methods for the katydids, as well as video monitoring and radio-telemetry for the bats. Both, bats and katydids were significantly more active during the dark periods associated with new moon compared to bright periods around the full moon. We conclude that foraging activity of L. silvicolum is probably influenced by prey availability to a large extent and argue that generally the causes of lunar phobia are species-specific.

Communicated by Roland Brandl