A lunar phobia is a behavioral trait in which the individual alters or ceases its nocturnal activity during periods of strong lunar illumination found throughout the animal kingdom. Current evidence indicates the changes reflect predator/prey detectability due to increased visibility. The study hypothesizes whether bat activity is more negatively influenced by a discrete threshold of high lunar illumination (nights with ≥ 90% of moon exposure) rather than a continuous linear response to variation in moon exposure. A 1202 mist net bat captures dataset from a preserved area in Northeast Brazil was used to test this hypothesis. A stepwise model was built, using Bayesian information criterion, to determine the effect of lunar luminosity (either as continuous moon exposure or discrete threshold parameter), environment (open vegetation vs canopy-covered), and season (dry/wet). The final model selected showed a significant negative threshold effect of nights above 90% of moon luminosity compared to a weaker non-significant effect of continuous moon exposure variation. The selected model also found a positive effect of forested environments and the wet season in the total number of bat captures. The model was able to detect a significant decrease in captures for the most abundant species, Artibeus planirostris. Our findings support the hypothesis that bats (especially frugivorous) present lunar phobia, which respond in a negative nonlinear fashion to high luminosity, possibly to avoid predation.
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We would like to extend our gratitude to the staff of the Guaribas Biological Reserve for all support and knowledge shared during the field data collection. A personal thank you to Whitney Howell, MSc, for proofing the final manuscript and offering invaluable input on the writing and structure of the text. CGZ’s work is supported by a doctorate scholarship granted by FAPESB.
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
This research paper used data already partially published (see: (Zeppelini et al. 2016, 2017)). The original sampling was approved and performed under license SISBIO 25891-3 (Ministério do Meio Ambiente).
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Zeppelini, C.G., Azeredo, L.M.M. & Lopez, L.C.S. Bats like dimmer lights: lunar phobia as a luminosity threshold phenomenon on Neotropical bats (Mammalia: Chiroptera). acta ethol 22, 125–128 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10211-019-00314-w
- Nocturnal activity