Desert moons

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A full moon in the Sonoran desert is a beautiful thing, lighting up canyons and cacti in an unearthly shade of light that is unseen during the day.

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The transition from full to new has biological consequences, too. Many animals’ behavior changes depending on the levels of light available in the night. The foraging behavior (and competition) of many rodent species, for example, depends on the phase of the moon (e.g. Kotler 1984). And further from my desert home, dung beetles are able to navigate in darkness with the polarized light of the moon (Dacke et al. 2003).

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But in my home, the light of the moon is easily diminished by the lights of the city. This urban light pollution probably has major consequences for animal behavior. I wonder what an animal sees, looking out from the desert to the miles of glittering human development we have built in the last century.

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