London, July 14 (ANI): Scientists have discovered that amphibians around the world synchronize their mating activity by the full Moon.
According to a report by BBC News, this global phenomenon has never been noticed before, but frogs, toads and newts all like to mate by moonlight.
The animals use the lunar cycle to co-ordinate their gatherings, ensuring that enough males and females come together at the same time.
In doing so the creatures maximize their spawning success and reduce their odds of being eaten.
Biologist Rachel Grant of the Open University, UK, was studying salamanders near a lake in central Italy for her PhD in 2005 when she noticed toads all over the road, under a full Moon.
"Although this might have been a coincidence, the following month I went along the same route every day at dusk and found that the numbers of toads on the road increased as the Moon waxed, to a peak at full Moon, and then declined again," she said.
A review of the scientific literature found little mention of any similar records, so Grant returned to the same site in 2006 and 2007 to survey the amphibians in more detail.
She then collated her data with a 10-year analysis of the mating habits of frogs and toads at a pond near Oxford, UK, collected by her supervisor Tim Halliday, and with data on toads and newts living in Wales collected by colleague Elizabeth Chadwick from Cardiff University, UK.
"We analysed the data, and found a lunar effect at all three sites," Grant said.
For example, the common toad (Bufo bufo) arrives at all its breeding sites, mates and spawns around the full Moon. The common frog (Rana temporaria) also spawns around the time of the full Moon.
"Newts also seem to be affected by the lunar cycle but the results are less clear," said Grant.
Newt arrivals peak during both the full and new moons.
The researchers have also looked at historical data collected in Java on the Javanese toad and found that it too mates by the lunar cycle, with females ovulating on or near to the full Moon.
"We now have evidence of lunar cycles affecting amphibians in widespread locations. We definitely think that Moon phase has been an overlooked factor in most studies of amphibian reproductive timing," said Grant.
"We think this may be a worldwide phenomenon. However, differences between species in ecology and reproductive strategy may mean that not all amphibians are affected in the same way. This is something we would like to investigate further," she added. (ANI)