Exposure to artificial light at night alters innate immune response in wild great tit nestlings.

Ann-Kathrin Ziegler (Korresp. Autor*in), Hannah Watson, Arne Hegemann, Richard Meitern, Virginie Canoine, Jan-Åke Nilsson, Caroline Isaksson

Veröffentlichungen: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftArtikelPeer Reviewed


The large-scale impact of urbanization on wildlife is rather well documented; however, the mechanisms underlying the effects of urban environments on animal physiology and behaviour are still poorly understood. Here, we focused on one major urban pollutant - artificial light at night (ALAN) - and its effects on the capacity tomount an innate immune response in wild great tit (Parus major) nestlings. Exposure to ALAN alters circadian rhythms of physiological processes, by disrupting the nocturnal production of the hormone melatonin. Nestlings were exposed to a light source emitting 3 lx for seven consecutive nights. Subsequently, nestlings were immune challenged with a lipopolysaccharide injection, and we measured haptoglobin and nitric oxide levels pre- and post-injection. Both haptoglobin and nitric oxide are importantmarkers for innate immune function. We found that ALAN exposure altered the innate immune response, with nestlings exposed to ALAN having lower haptoglobin and higher nitric oxide levels after the immune challenge compared with dark-night nestlings. Unexpectedly, nitric oxide levels were overall lower after the immune challenge than before. These effects were probably mediated by melatonin, as ALAN-treated birds had on average 49% lowermelatonin levels than the dark-night birds. ALAN exposure did not have any clear effects on nestling growth. This study provides a potential physiological mechanism underlying the documented differences in immune function between urban and rural birds observed in other studies. Moreover, it gives evidence that ALAN exposure affects nestling physiology, potentially causing long-term effects on physiology and behaviour, which ultimately can affect their fitness.

FachzeitschriftThe Journal of experimental biology
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Mai 2021

ÖFOS 2012

  • 106048 Tierphysiologie
  • 106047 Tierökologie