Linking ‘10-year’ herbivore cycles to the lunisolar oscillation: the cosmic ray hypothesis


V. Selås, Dept of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian Univ. of Life Sciences, PO Box 5003, NO-1432 Ås, Norway. E-mail:


The mean population cycle periods of the snowshoe hare Lepus americanus, the larch budmoth Zeiraphera diniana, and the autumnal moth Epirrita autumnata are 9.3 years, similar to the lunar nodal phase cycle. When the full/new Moon is situated close to the ecliptic plane at solstice, it interacts more strongly with the magnetosphere, which plays a crucial role in protecting the Earth against ionizing cosmic ray particles. Ionization by cosmic rays induces protein mobilization in plants, which may increase forage quality for herbivores. Series of hare/lynx population indices from Canadian provinces and an autumnal moth series from Fennoscandia correlated with the lunar nodal phase cycle with different time lags. Both the time lag and the impact of an active sun, which increases solar energetic particles, but decreases galactic cosmic ray particles, were related to radiation or the distance from the auroral oval. These insights improve our ability to explain and understand population peaks, and should also motivate further studies on the effects of cosmic rays on plant chemistry and herbivore performance.