University of Oulu

Owens ACS, Meyer-Rochow VB, Yang E-C (2018) Short- and mid-wavelength artificial light influences the flash signals of Aquatica ficta fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). PLoS ONE 13(2): e0191576.

Short- and mid-wavelength artificial light influences the flash signals of Aquatica ficta fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae)

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Author: Owens, Avalon Celeste Stevahn1; Meyer-Rochow, Victor Benno2,3; Yang, En-Cheng4
Organizations: 1Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, United States of America
2Department of Genetics and Physiology, Oulu University, Oulu, Finland
3Research Institute of Luminous Organisms, Tokyo, Japan
4Department of Entomology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.9 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Public Library of Science, 2018
Publish Date: 2019-06-17


Urbanization can radically disrupt natural ecosystems through alteration of the sensory environment. Habitat disturbances are predicted to favor behaviorally flexible species capable of adapting to altered environments. When artificial light at night (ALAN) is introduced into urban areas, it has the potential to impede reproduction of local firefly populations by obscuring their bioluminescent courtship signals. Whether individual fireflies can brighten their signals to maintain visibility against an illuminated background remains unknown. In this study, we exposed male Aquatica ficta fireflies to diffused light of varying wavelength and intensity, and recorded their alarm flash signals. When exposed to wavelengths at or below 533 nm, males emitted brighter signals with decreased frequency. This is the first evidence of individual-level light signal plasticity in fireflies. In contrast, long wavelength ambient light (≥ 597 nm) did not affect signal morphology, likely because A. ficta cannot perceive these wavelengths. These results suggest long wavelength lighting is less likely to impact firefly courtship, and its use in place of broad spectrum white lighting could augment firefly conservation efforts. More generally, this study demonstrates benefits of bioluminescent signal plasticity in a “noisy” signaling environment, and sheds light on an important yet understudied consequence of urbanization.

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Series: PLoS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
ISSN-E: 1932-6203
ISSN-L: 1932-6203
Volume: 13
Issue: 2
Article number: e0191576
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191576
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: Funding for firefly research provided to National Taiwan University by the Friends of Da’an Forest Park Foundation ( - grant number: FD97011). Some funding was allocated to ECY’s laboratory, and used by ECY and ACSO to purchase experimental equipment. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Dataset Reference: Data Availability
Copyright information: © 2018 Owens et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.