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  • Writer's pictureIsaac yelchin

Marvelous Moon

Mystery surrounds the moon. We believe that around 4.5 billion years ago a Mars sized object flying through space collided with earth, and the impact created the moon. This incident created the moon at just the right distance away to keep earth's climate somewhat stable for billions of years. Animals, and more recently humans have begun to use the moon for their benefit. Its gravitational pull influences our oceans greatly and causes the four tidal swings we experience every day; giving rise to the thousands of creatures living in the intertidal zone, who provide food to many animals and humans.

The moon allows us to keep time, and can even influence reproduction. This lifeless chunk of megaregolith is both circling the earth and rotating with the same constant speed as the earth. This perfect rotation and spin means we only see one face of the moon from earth all year. Pay attention through these series of photos and you will notice every night all you see is the same side. Even still this side is not always present and as the earth casts its shadow on the moon, we watch night by night as the moon shrinks and grows in a never ending cycle.

When the moon is full and is reflecting as much of the sun as possible down to our earth it triggers all sorts of animal behaviors. If we go out at night with a full moon we can almost see clearly, but for many animals it is as clear as daylight.

Coyotes already hunt at night using their powerful sense of smell and hearing. They are also adapted to see in low light conditions, so when the moon is bright they can see everything. Coyotes howling at a full moon is common folklore, however, this actually stems from a coincidence. The extra light from a full moon allows coyotes to see clearly and makes social interactions a bit easier. Therefore, this howling is actually to communicate with other members of the pack, or to control territory borders from other coyotes entering. So next time you hear a coyote howling at the moon, remember it's actually just having a chat with a fellow coyote.

One of the coyote's favorite prey items is the rabbit. This little critter is designed to see and hear predators coming. Its eyes on the side of its head allow for near 360 degree vision, and its long flexible ears allow it to pinpoint even the slightest sound. Living in constant fear of predation, rabbits are active at night hoping this may give them some extra cover. At night the moon is out, and many species of rabbits have a strong association with the moon. Rabbits can reproduce quickly, once a month, and always give birth at night. So to keep up their numbers, the rabbits that don’t get eaten by the howling coyotes give birth to offspring every full moon. So continues the cycle of the moon, and with it, the cycle of life.

Isaac Yelchin is foremost a herpetologist. He studies lizards, frogs, newts, and the like. Specifically, he spends all day and night thinking about what it is like to be an animal. What are the animals thinking about? What is their perspective? When he should be working, he sits and stares at his pet lizard asking himself these questions.

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