Researchers: Dan Becker, Devraj Singh, Qiuyun Pan, Jesse Montoure, Katie Talbott, Sarah Wanamaker, Ellen Ketterson
Artificial light at night (ALAN) is common in urban environments, and chronic exposure has been shown to influence immunity in wildlife, perhaps increasing the risk of infections. Few studies, however, have addresses ALAN’s effect on immunity in migratory birds.
Researchers at MCBB experimentally tested how ALAN affects immunity at the cellular level in relation to the intensity of a parasitic infection in a songbird, the Dark-eyed Junco.
They monitored an experimental group exposed to light at night and a control group under natural light/dark cycles as they passed through short days simulating early spring to longer days simulating the breeding season, followed by shorter days during autumn migration. Using statistical models, they showed that ALAN increased inflammation, numbers of white blood cells, and abundance of parasites that came from hidden infections that relapsed in response to ALAN. Their study demonstrated how a common anthropogenic influence can shape processes in wildlife that affect infection dynamics.
Learn more about the study
Becker et al. 2020. Artificial light at night amplifies seasonal relapse of haemosporidian parasites in a widespread songbird. Proc. R. Soc. B. 28 20201831 20201831.
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