Lunar phobia in bats and its ecological correlates: A meta-analysis
Animals show several behavioral strategies to reduce predation risks. Presumably, moonlight avoidance is a strategy used by some nocturnal species to reduce the risk of predation. In bats, some research indicates that foraging activity is negatively correlated with moonlight intensity, a phenomenon better known as lunar phobia. However, the currently available evidence is contradictory because some bat species reduce their activity during nights with more moonlight while the opposite occurs in other species. We quantitatively evaluated the strength and direction of the relationship between moonlight intensity and bat activity using a meta-analysis. We also looked at some ecological correlates of lunar phobia in bats. Specifically, we examined foraging habitat and latitude as potential moderators of the size of the lunar phobia effect. Our results show that, regardless of the method used to evaluate bat activity, the overall relationship between moonlight intensity and bat activity is significant and negative (r = −0.22). Species foraging on the surface of the water (piscivores and insectivores; r = −0.83) and forest canopy species (i.e., big frugivores; r = −0.30) are more affected by moonlight than those with different foraging habitats (understory, subcanopy, open air). Latitude was positively correlated with lunar phobia (r =0.023). The stronger lunar phobia for bats foraging on the water surface and in the forest canopy may suggest that the risk of predation is greater where moonlight penetrates more easily. The significant effect of latitude as a moderator of lunar phobia suggests that there is a weak geographic pattern, with this phobia slightly more common in tropical bats than in temperate species.
KeywordsChiroptera Foraging activity Foraging habitat Latitude Moonlight
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