If you happen to work in customer service and you seem to be getting far more than your fair share of grumpy clients on a particular day, you might want to check to see if it’s a full moon! Hang on though, surely our silvery satellite, out there in space, doesn’t really have any influence on us back here on earth…does it?
One thing the moon most definitely does affect are our oceans’ tides – a full moon creates spring tides (nothing to do with the time of year, but a term meaning a very high tide). This means grubs up for shallow water dwellers, as a very high tide will wash lots of extra little creatures in on the waves.
Having to clamber up a steep, sandy shore when you’re heavily pregnant is no fun, so marine turtles patiently wait for that extra high tide to arrive to give them a little more oomph to make it up onto the beach where they diligently dig a hole and lay their eggs, before catching the receding tide to take them back to the briny once more.
Corals spectacularly synchronise their spawning on a full moon – they all release their eggs and sperm into the water by that silvery light, selecting a lunar timeslot when the water temperature and tide height are just right.
Doodlebugs get busy during a full moon too, they put their back into digging bigger and better holes to help stock up their larders – their prey, seem to be fans of the moonlight and end up becoming doodlebug dinner.
The light of the full moon can pose a problem though – tiny zooplankton rely on the cover of darkness when they rise to the surface for a late evening snack and so a bright moonlit night means diet time, as they need to keep their heads down to avoid becoming moonlight dinner.
Oysters aren’t fans of moonlight either, reducing their opening hours significantly during a full moon – why they do this is somewhat of a mystery – perhaps it’s that their prey is hiding away – or maybe they’re scared of werewolves – who knows!!
The light of the moon can make things seem to glow in the darkness and that’s certainly true for scorpions, who take on an iridescent blue hue when the moon shines bright. Rather than go for a dayglow show, though, they prefer to hide their light under a bushel until it’s dark again.
If you’re thinking of taking a moonlit stroll in Africa, just bear in mind that the king of the beasts might be more inclined to view you as a tasty treat at full moon – lions usually hunt in darkness and the full moon stops them sneaking up on their dinner, so they might decide to turn their attention your way instead!
Moonlight is so romantic isn’t it, especially if you’re a petrel, because the full moon is a signal that’s it’s time to return to your breeding grounds to meet up with your mate, get cosy and cuddle up ready to produce the next generation – ah lovely.
Big blue moon making you feel down? There’s one tree that sheds a tear or two at full moon – the joint pine. It produces drops of nectar that glisten enticingly in the moonlight to attract nocturnal pollinators to indulge in a little midnight feast.
You’d think that it’s the brightness of moonlight that helps dung beetles maintain a straight and steady course with their ball of booty back to their burrows – but it’s actually the polarisation of the light that helps them keep to the straight and narrow – no moonlight and they tend to go a little off piste.
OK I know you’re waiting for me to get around to wolves howling at the moon – well sorry to disappoint you, but that’s really just a myth – wolves do howl, but they don’t do it at the moon and as for werewolves … now come on! What do you think I am, some kind of lunatic?!