The rate of shark attacks may be related to changes in phases of the moon, according to new research out of Louisiana State University (LSU) and the University of Florida.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Marine Science, reported more shark attacks than average occur during periods of higher lunar illumination and fewer attacks than average occur during periods of lower illumination. The findings were based on 55 years of global shark attack data collected from 1960 to 2015.

"It's not a matter of more light at night for sharks to see. Most shark attacks occur in the daylight," Steve Midway, an associate professor in LSU's oceanography department, said in a news release. "However, the moon can exert other forces on Earth and its oceans in ways that are much more subtle -- for example, the gravitation pull that we see affect the tides."

It's still too early to say if lunar illumination is a causative factor for shark attacks, according to the researchers, but this new information could help to shape our understanding of shark attacks going forward.

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