Experimental light at night explains differences in activity onset between urban and forest great tits

McGlade, C. L.O., Capilla-Lasheras, P. , Womack, R. J., Helm, B. and Dominoni, D. (2023) Experimental light at night explains differences in activity onset between urban and forest great tits. Biology Letters, 19(9), 20230194. (doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2023.0194) (PMID:37670610) (PMCID:PMC10480697)

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Artificial light at night (ALAN) is rapidly increasing and so is scientific interest in its ecological and evolutionary consequences. In wild species, ALAN can modify and disrupt biological rhythms. However, experimental proof of such effects of ALAN in the wild is still scarce. Here, we compared diel rhythms of incubation behaviour, inferred from temperature sensors, of female great tits (Parus major) breeding in urban and forest sites. In parallel, we simulated ALAN by mounting LED lights (1.8 lx) inside forest nest-boxes, to determine the potentially causal role of ALAN affecting diel patterns of incubation. Urban females had an earlier onset of activity compared to forest females. Experimentally ALAN-exposed forest females were similar to urban females in their advanced onset of activity, compared to unexposed forest birds. However, forest females exposed to experimental ALAN, but not urban females, were more restless at night than forest control females. Our findings demonstrate that ALAN can explain the early activity timing in incubating urban great tits, but its effects on sleep disturbance in the forest are not reflected in urban females. Consequently, future research needs to address potential effects of ALAN-induced timing on individual health, fitness and population dynamics, in particular in populations that were not previously affected by light pollution.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The work was funded by a NERC grant (grant no. NE/S005773/1) to D.M.D. R.J.W. received funding from a BBSRC-DTP studentship.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Dominoni, Dr Davide and Capilla Lasheras, Dr Pablo and Helm, Dr Barbara and Womack, Robyn
Authors: McGlade, C. L.O., Capilla-Lasheras, P., Womack, R. J., Helm, B., and Dominoni, D.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Biology Letters
Publisher:The Royal Society
ISSN (Online):1744-9561
Published Online:06 September 2023
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2023 The Authors
First Published:First published in Biology Letters 19(9): 20230194
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License
Data DOI:10.5281/zenodo.8021624

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
303242Unravelling the impact of artificial light at night on circadian disruption, immunity, and infection riskDavide DominoniNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/S005773/1Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine