Better in the dark: two Mediterranean amphibians synchronize reproduction with moonlit nights
Abstract. In Amphibians, both positive and negative correlations between activity and full moon phase have been observed. In this study, we present data for two anuran species (Hyla intermedia and Rana dalmatina) studied in a hilly Mediterranean area of central Italy. We analysed, in a two-year survey, the relationships between the number of egg clutches laid each night and the moon phases by means of circular statistics. Moreover, the studied species exhibited clear oviposition site selection behaviour influenced, at least in H. intermedia, by moon phases. We observed the occurrence of an avoidance effect by amphibians for oviposition and specific egg-laying behaviour during moon phases around the full moon. This apparent lunar phobia was evident in both species when yearly data were pooled. On the other hand, while this pattern continued to be also evident in H. intermedia when single years were considered, in R. dalmatina it stood just in one year of study. Nonetheless, during cloudy nights, when moonlight arriving on the ground was low, the frogs' behaviour was similar to that observed in new moon phases. We interpreted the observed pattern as an anti-predatory strategy. Overall, comparisons between our own study and previous research suggest that there was insufficient evidence to establish any unequivocal patterns and that further research in this regard is needed.