Artificial light threatens the survival of fireflies by interrupting their mating screens

Artificial light pollution is threatening the survival of fireflies by interrupting their coupling screens, and very bright LED bulbs are making things worse.

  • Researchers surveyed firefly experts from around the world for study
  • An increase in the number of brighter LED bulbs is having an impact on the coupling of fireflies
  • They discovered that habitat loss and pesticide use were also risk factors for fireflies.

Artificial light pollution is threatening the survival of fireflies by interrupting their coupling screens, and very bright LED bulbs are making things worse.

A team led by researchers at Tufts University in Boston spoke with firefly experts from around the world to assess the habitat of insects and their impacts.

The biggest surprise the team found was that light pollution, particularly in areas with brighter LED bulbs, interrupted mating encounters.

They also discovered that habitat loss and pesticides were having an impact on the firefly population worldwide.

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A glowing female worm (Lampyris noctiluca) will shine for hours to attract her partner, but the bright skies will dim her outlook

A glowing female worm (Lampyris noctiluca) will shine for hours to attract her partner, but the bright skies will dim her outlook

Sara Lewis, a biology professor at Tufts University, and her team wanted to assess the most important threats to survival to create help predicting the future of at-risk species.

Artificial light at night has grown exponentially during the last century, according to one of the study's authors, Avalon Owens.

"In addition to disrupting natural biorhythms, including ours, light pollution really ruins the mating rituals of fireflies," Owens explained.

Fireflies rely on bioluminescence to find and attract their partners, and previous work has shown that too much artificial light can interfere with this.

For example, a glowing female worm (Lampyris noctiluca) will shine for hours to attract her partner, but bright skies will diminish her outlook.

"Switching to energy efficient and too bright LEDs is not helping, since brighter is not necessarily better," says Owens.

Fireflies are one of the most widespread and economically important insect groups in the world with more than 2,000 different species.

The team says that more long-term data on firefly population trends are needed to more accurately assess how severe the population decline is.

However, using the information they already have, the team created a number of risk factors to predict which firefly species will be the most vulnerable.

For example, females of the Appalachian blue phantom firefly, known as Phausis reticulata, do not fly, so habitat loss is a particular risk factor.

"When their habitat disappears, they can't just get up and move to another place," said co-author J. Michael Reed, a biology professor at Tufts.

Researchers remain optimistic about the future of fireflies, as there are many different species worldwide.

Firefly glowing in a grass filed at night. Habitat destruction, pesticides and light pollution are causing disturbances to firefly populations.

Firefly glowing in a grass filed at night. Habitat destruction, pesticides and light pollution are causing disturbances to firefly populations.

Firefly glowing in a grass filed at night. Habitat destruction, pesticides and light pollution are causing disturbances to firefly populations.

"Here in the United States, we are fortunate to have some robust species such as Big Dipper fireflies, called Photinus pyralis," says Lewis.

"Those guys can survive virtually anywhere, and they are also beautiful."

The team also discovered that the use of agricultural pesticides was a major threat, just behind light pollution and habitat loss.

By illuminating these threats and assessing the conservation status of firefly species throughout the world, researchers aim to preserve the magical lights of fireflies for the enjoyment of future generations.

"Our goal is to make this knowledge available to land managers, policy makers and firefly fans everywhere," says Sonny Wong of the Malaysian Nature Society.

"We want to keep the fireflies lighting our nights for a long, long time."

The research has been published in the magazine. Bioscience.

FLASH OF MALE MEN IN THE UNISON & # 39; SO WOMEN DO NOT CONFUSE & # 39;

It is known that fireflies flash in unison and illuminate a forest.

A 2010 study found that insects do this as a form of mating ritual so that females can easily recognize members of their own species.

Males produce a specific intermittent light pattern of the species as they fly through the air in search of partners.

The patterns consist of one or more flashes, followed by a characteristic pause.

Thousands of fireflies shine in unison in Oita Prefecture in Japan. Scientists believe they synchronize to avoid confusing females

Thousands of fireflies shine in unison in Oita Prefecture in Japan. Scientists believe they synchronize to avoid confusing females

Thousands of fireflies shine in unison in Oita Prefecture in Japan. Scientists believe they synchronize to avoid confusing females

During the break, the females perched on the leaves or branches will produce a single response flash if they see a suitable male.

But a problem arises when a large number of males gather in the same place, creating a landscape full of sparkles.

Then, the characteristic flashes of could be difficult for a woman to recognize.

The solution is that all males of the same species blink in sync, producing a pattern that cannot be lost.

American scientists demonstrated the effect in the laboratory by exposing females of the firefly species Photinus carolinus to light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Each of the lights produced the specific species pattern for P. carolinus, mimicking the male fireflies.

When the LEDs blinked in sync, women responded 80% of the time.

But when the flashes were out of sync, they only produced a 10 percent response rate, according to the scientists.

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