Thursday, March 14, 2013

Bright nights speed birds' lives

Exposure to low levels of artificial light at night can cause birds to become ready for reproduction earlier than those that experience dark nights.
Davide Dominoni and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, attached miniature devices to wild European blackbirds (Turdus merula) to record the light levels that the birds experience in city and forest environments. On the basis of these data, the authors exposed adult male blackbirds captured from both settings to either dark or low-light conditions at night. Birds kept in the brighter-night environment developed reproductive physiology nearly a month earlier and moulted sooner than their dark-dwelling counterparts.
The light level the authors used was 20 times lower than that produced by a streetlight, showing that even small changes can have an impact on animal development.

Abstract: Nature v494, pp 284–285 (21 February 2013). <doi:10.1038/494284d>

Original article: Dominoni, D, M Quetting, and J Partecke. 2013. Artificial light at night advances avian reproductive physiology. Proceedings Royal Society B v280, n1756, pp20123017. <doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.3017>