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A full moon warns of hungry lions, new study shows

Posted by: Jenna Ross under Lions Updated: July 20, 2011 - 5:28 PM

Craig Packer, courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Craig Packer, courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Lions attack following a lunar cycle, a new study by a University of Minnesota expert shows.

Full moon? You’re safe. For now. But lions are most likely to eat you on the evenings following a full moon.

The new study, published in the July 20 issue of PloS ONE, was led by Craig Packer, a lion expert and U professor. Findings were based on the “largest dataset of lion attacks ever assembled,” the study says. It overlaid nearly 500 lion attacks on Tanzanian villagers between 1988 and 2009 against lunar cycles and regular measurements of lions’ belly size.

Lions have better luck hunting on dark nights. So the moon, at its fullest, leaves lions hungry, their bellies small.

“Hourly attack rates were two to 4 times higher in the first 10 days after the full moon... than in the 10-day period before the full moon,” the study says.

That might help explain why so many myths focus on the dangerous full moon.

“Thus the full moon is not dangerous in itself,” the study concludes, “but is instead a portent of the darkness to come."

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