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Stay out of the water! Moonless twilights could trigger sea animal orgies

Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you thought Jaws gave you a good reason to stay out of the water at night, we’ll do you one better. New research at the University of California suggests that an absence of the moon during twilight may cause a wide variety of sea creatures to engage in “mass spawning,” or as we like to call it, “mass underwater sexcapades.”

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Alison Sweeney, a researcher at the university in Santa Barbara, wants to figure out how so many marine creatures manage to sync up and release all of their eggs and sperm into the water at the same time, reports Science News. It seems almost impossible, especially for species like coral, which don’t even have a central nervous system or what we’d call eyes. Yet, most species are remarkably in sync, often spawning within a 20 minute window of one another. “This 20-minute precision is pretty tough to explain,” she admits.

Believing the answer might have something to do with the color of the light at twilight, she and her team put sensors and a laptop on an intertube and floated it out near a bunch of coral in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They found that slightly more blue light filled the air and ocean on nights when there was little to no moon during twilight. Moonlight has a slight red tinge to it. Sweeney’s cameras were able to detect the blue light change on nights when the marine animals started reproducing en mass.

And being near a massive coral and sea creature orgy isn’t pleasant. “It looks like the little pellets inside a bean bag chair,” Sweeney says. “You come out of the water smelling like rotten flower shop.”

Science being science, there are, of course, those who doubt her theory, arguing that even animals 1,000 meters below the surface have spawning parties at the same time as well. It would be almost impossible to detect light changes at that depth.

Of course, for those of you who clicked this link thinking it might be about The Twilight Saga: New Moon, we apologize.

Jeffrey Van Camp
Former Digital Trends Contributor
As DT's Deputy Editor, Jeff helps oversee editorial operations at Digital Trends. Previously, he ran the site's…
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