Think humans are at the top of the food chain? Not quite, in parts of Africa. Lions have attacked over 1000 people in Tanzania in the last 20 years. Two thirds of those attacks were fatal, and the victims were eaten. But there does seem to be a way to lower the risk of becoming dinner—avoid going out before moonrise on the nights following the full moon. So says a study in the journal Public Library of Science One. [Craig Packer et al., "Fear of Darkness, the Full Moon and the Nocturnal Ecology of African Lions"]
Researchers plotted the timing of nearly 500 of those lion attacks against the phases of the moon. And they found that the odds of being devoured by a lion were highest on nights following the full moon—nights when the moon rises late, providing hours of darkness for lions to stage a strike.
And previous studies have found that the fatter the moon, the slimmer the lion. Probably because the bright nights make hunting harder. So lions are hungriest around the full moon, too—and more willing to pounce on two-legged prey, as soon as they're provided the cover of darkness. The authors speculate that humans may be afraid of the dark because this situation has long been true. Seems like a bit of a stretch. But you won't find me strolling the Serengeti after a full moon.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]