University of Sussex
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Artificial light impairs local attraction to females in male glow-worms

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posted on 2024-03-25, 17:27 authored by Estelle Moubarak, A. Sofia David Fernandes, Alan StewartAlan Stewart, Jeremy NivenJeremy Niven
The negative effects of artificial lighting at night (ALAN) on insects are increasingly recognised and have been postulated as one possible cause of declines in insect populations. Yet, the behavioural mechanisms underpinning ALAN effects on insects remain unclear. ALAN interferes with the bioluminescent signal female glow-worms use to attract males, disrupting reproduction. To determine the behavioural mechanisms that underpin this effect of ALAN, we quantified the effect of white illumination on males’ ability to reach a female-mimicking LED within a Y-maze. We show that as the intensity of illumination increases, the proportion of males reaching the female-mimicking LED declines. Brighter illumination also increases the time taken by males to reach the female-mimicking LED. This is a consequence of males spending more time: (i) in the central arm of the Y-maze; and (ii) with their head retracted beneath their head shield. These effects reverse rapidly when illumination is removed, suggesting that male glow-worms are averse to white light. Our results show that ALAN not only prevents male glow-worms from reaching females, but also increases the time they take to reach females and the time they spend avoiding exposure to light. This demonstrates that the impacts of ALAN on male glow-worms extend beyond those previously observed in field experiments, and raises the possibility that ALAN has similar behavioural impacts on other insect species that remain undetected in field experiments.


See and be seen: Understanding trade-offs in bioluminescent signalling and how it is affected by artificial lighting at night : BBSRC-BIOTECHNOLOGY & BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES RESEARCH COUNCIL | BB/S018093/1


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  • Published

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  • Published version


Journal of Experimental Biology




The Company of Biologists





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University of Sussex

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