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More shark attacks happen during fuller moon phases, LSU researchers say

"The abundance of data we have would suggest that there is something there that's worth continuing to look at," LSU associate professor Steve Midway said.

NEW ORLEANS — More shark attacks happen during fuller phases of the moon, according to researchers from Louisiana State University and the University of Florida.

In a paper published in December's Frontiers in Marine Science, researchers say they crunched the decades-old numbers for shark attacks across the globe revealing "a clear correlation between lunar phases and shark attacks, although the reasons why remain unknown."

Scientists used records in the 55 years between 1960 and 2015 from the International Shark Attack File, examining factors of geography, shark species and outcome of the attack. 

LSU associate professor Steve Midway, a researcher on the project, said the correlation is not just caused by more light at night for sharks to see prey.

"Most shark attacks occur in the daylight. However, the moon can exert forces on Earth and its oceans in ways that are much more subtle - for example, the gravitational pull that we see affect the tides," Midway said.

Scientists say the new data can serve as a "building block" to better understand shark attacks and how to prevent them. The paper concludes that the relationship may not be causative, and does not recommend any immediate risk management from the findings. Instead, they hope their findings underscore the complex nature of shark attacks and how the wider environment, not just sharks and humans, can be factored in the attacks.

"The abundance of data we have would suggest that there is something there that's worth continuing to look at," Midway said.

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