Exposure to artificial light at night accelerates but does not override latitude-dependent seasonal reproductive response in a North American songbird

D. Singh, J. Montoure, E. D. Ketterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In the modern era of industrialization, illuminated nights have become a common defining feature of human-occupied environments, particularly cities. Artificial light at night (ALAN) imposes several known negative impacts on the neuroendocrine system, metabolism, and seasonal reproduction of species living in the wild. However, we know little about the impact of ALAN on populations of birds that either live year-round in the same location or move to different latitudes across seasons. To test whether ALAN has a differing impact on the reproductive timing of bird populations that winter in sympatry but breed at different latitudes, we monitored sedentary and migratory male dark-eyed juncos that were or were not exposed to low intensity (∼2.5 ± 0.5 lux) ALAN. All groups were held in common conditions and day length was gradually increased to mimic natural day length changes (NDL). We assessed seasonal reproductive response from initiation to termination of the breeding cycle. As expected based on earlier research, the sedentary birds exhibited earlier gonadal recrudescence and terminated breeding later than the migratory birds. In addition, resident and migrant birds exposed to ALAN initiated gonadal recrudescence earlier and terminated reproductive events sooner as compared to their conspecifics experiencing NDL. Importantly, the difference in the reproductive timing of sedentary and migratory populations was maintained even when exposed to ALAN. This variation in the seasonal reproductive timing may likely have a genetic basis or be the result of early developmental effects imposed due to different light regimes related to the latitude of origin. This study reveals first that ALAN accelerated reproductive development across both migrants and residents and second that latitude-dependent variation in reproductive timing is maintained despite exposure to ALAN. These results corroborate a relationship between latitude, population, and reproductive timing while also revealing ALAN's impact on seasonal reproductive timing. This study reveals that, ALAN accelerated reproductive development but maintained latitude-dependent variation in reproductive timing across both migrant and resident bird populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116867
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
StatePublished - Jun 15 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The funds were provided by the Indiana University through the Grand Challenge Initiative, Prepared for Environmental Change to EDK.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Artificial light at night
  • Dark-eyed junco
  • GnRH challenged testosterone
  • Life-history states
  • Seasonal reproduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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