Thursday, April 14, 2016

Adapting to street lighting

Although in Switzerland light pollution is a fraction of what it is in American urban areas, in an interesting study, Florian Altermatt from Zurich and Dieter Ebert from Basel have shown experimentally that moths have adapted to light pollution. They reared moths from 10 different populations from early-instar larvae and experimentally compared their flight-to-light behavior under standardized conditions. Moths from urban populations had a significant reduction in the flight-to-light behavior compared with pristine populations.

This adaptation has direct consequences for ecosystems, because as moths avoid light pollution they will fly less and will pollinate fewer flowers.

If you delve into data science, beware that correlation does not predict causality: if Americans have become couch potatoes and move less than the Swiss, this is not due to the difference in light pollution :-)

Citation: Florian Altermatt, Dieter Ebert: Reduced flight-to-light behaviour of moth populations exposed to long-term urban light pollution, Biol. Lett. 2016 12 20160111; DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0111. Published 12 April 2016.

Helvetia by Night