University of Oulu

Elgert C, Hopkins J, Kaitala A, Candolin U. 2020 Reproduction under light pollution: maladaptive response to spatial variation in artificial light in a glow-worm. Proc. R. Soc. B 287: 20200806.

Reproduction under light pollution : maladaptive response to spatial variation in artificial light in a glow-worm

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Author: Elgert, Christina1,2; Hopkins, Juhani3,2; Kaitala, Arja3,2;
Organizations: 1Organismal and Evolutionary Biology, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
2Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, J.A. Palméns väg 260, 10900 Hanko, Finland
3Department of Ecology and Genetics, University of Oulu, PO Box 3000, 90014 Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: The Royal Society, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-08-28


The amount of artificial light at night is growing worldwide, impacting the behaviour of nocturnal organisms. Yet, we know little about the consequences of these behavioural responses for individual fitness and population viability. We investigated if females of the common glow-worm Lampyris noctiluca—which glow in the night to attract males—mitigate negative effects of artificial light on mate attraction by adjusting the timing and location of glowing to spatial variation in light conditions. We found females do not move away from light when exposed to a gradient of artificial light, but delay or even refrain from glowing. Further, we demonstrate that this response is maladaptive, as our field study showed that staying still when exposed to artificial light from a simulated streetlight decreases mate attraction success, while moving only a short distance from the light source can markedly improve mate attraction. These results indicate that glow-worms are unable to respond to spatial variation in artificial light, which may be a factor in their global decline. Consequently, our results support the hypothesis that animals often lack adaptive behavioural responses to anthropogenic environmental changes and underlines the importance of considering behavioural responses when investigating the effects of human activities on wildlife.

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Series: Proceedings of the Royal Society. B, Biological sciences
ISSN: 0962-8452
ISSN-E: 1471-2954
ISSN-L: 0962-8452
Volume: 287
Issue: 1931
Article number: 20200806
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2020.0806
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: The work was funded by the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland (grant no. 148370 to C.E.), Maj and Tor Nessling Foundation (grant no. 202000239 to C.E.), and Academy of Finland (grant no. 294664 to A.K.).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 294664
Detailed Information: 294664 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Dataset Reference: The raw data is available from the Dryad Digital Repository:
Copyright information: © 2020 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.