The enigma of the 10-year wildlife population cycle solved? Evidence that the periodicity and regularity of the cycle are driven by a lunar zeitgeber


  • Herbert L. Archibald 632 Tee Hi Place, Medford, Wisconsin 54451



10-year wildlife cycle, lunar nodal cycle, Snowshoe Hare, Lepus americanus, Ruffed Grouse, Bonasa umbellus, Canada Lynx, Lynx canadensis


Despite nearly 100 years of research, the periodicity and regularity of the 10-year wildlife population cycle remain an enigma. This paper presents the hypothesis that the 9.3-year nodal half-cycle of the moon is the zeitgeber (“time-giver”) of the 10-year wildlife population cycle. The period of the population cycles of the Snowshoe Hare (Lepus americanus) and Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is close to 9.3 years. These wildlife cycles have stayed closely in phase with the 9.3-year nodal half-cycle for 150 years. Population density of the Snowshoe Hare and Ruffed Grouse is inversely related to a 9.3-year cycle of the moon's tidal force. There is also a 9.3-year cycle of “nights without darkness” at the equinoxes, in which the full moon rises before sunset and sets after sunrise the following morning in certain years. Snowshoe Hare and Ruffed Grouse cycles are positively correlated with this phenomenon. The nodal cycle provides explanations for the key features of the 10-year wildlife cycle: regularity, periodicity, amplitude, distribution, and synchrony. Population models based solely on the nodal cycle account for 62% of the variation in the Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis) cycle and 37% in the Ruffed Grouse cycle. The mechanism(s) by which herbivore cycles might be entrained by the lunar nodal cycle could involve a cyclic effect on factors including predation, stress, photoperiod, phenology, temperature, cloudiness, ultraviolet B radiation, cosmic rays, and food plant quality.