July 20, 2011
Research in Tanzania shows that lion attacks are most successful on dark nights. Lions hunt at these times, when darkness allows a greater chance of surprising prey. Moon phase particularly affects attacks on humans.
The moon sets early when in the growing phase, but provides light in those evening hours when people are still active. Danger is moderate at these times. Full moon brings an interval of relatively little danger, but leaves lions hungry, so that as the moon rises later and smaller the evenings are a dangerous time to be out and about.
Other prey is available all night of course, but humans rarely leave safe enclosed huts or bomas after 10pm.
This pattern must be very old, and extend worldwide wherever predators and humans lived together. Surely a lot of the mystique associated with the phases of the moon muststem from such observations.
Our ancestors must have dreaded the time of the shrinking moon, the darkness outside the firelight more intense and more dangerous than at any other time.