, Volume 189, Issue 1, pp 69–77 | Cite as

Illuminating the physiological implications of artificial light on an insectivorous bat community

  • Zachary M. CravensEmail author
  • Justin G. Boyles
Physiological ecology – original research


Global light pollution threatens to disturb numerous wildlife species, but impacts of artificial light will likely vary among species within a community. Thus, artificial lights may change the environment in such a way as to create winners and losers as some species benefit while others do not. Insectivorous bats are nocturnal and a good model to test for differential effects of light pollution on a single community. We used a physiological technique to address this community-level question by measuring plasma ß-hydroxybutyrate (a blood metabolite) concentrations from six species of insectivorous bats in lit and unlit conditions. We also recorded bat calls acoustically to measure activity levels between experimental conditions. Blood metabolite level and acoustic activity data suggest species-specific changes in foraging around lights. In red bats (Lasiurus borealis), ß-hydroxybutyrate levels at lit sites were highest early in the night before decreasing. Acoustic data indicate pronounced peaks in activity at lit sites early in the night. In red bats on dark nights and in the other species in this community, which seem to avoid lights, ß-hydroxybutyrate remained relatively constant. Our results suggest red bats are more willing to expend energy to actively forage around lights despite potential negative impacts, while other, generally rarer species avoid lit areas. Artificial light appears to have a bifurcating effect on bat communities, whereby some species take advantage of concentrated prey resources, yet most do not. Further, this may concentrate light-intolerant species into limited dark refugia, thereby increasing competition for depauperate, phototactic insect communities.


Bat–insect interactions β-Hydroxybutyrate Light pollution LED Plasma metabolite analysis 



We thank Kelly Rezac, Jeanette Bailey, and Kathryn Womack for logistical support within MDC. Daniel Herrera provided support in the field.

Author contribution statement

ZMC and JGB conceived and designed the experiments. ZMC performed the experiments. ZMC analysed the data and wrote the manuscript. JGB contributed to the interpretation of results and provided editorial input on the manuscript. Both authors approve the final version of the manuscript.


This study was funded by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable institutional and/or national guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. Further, experiments reported herein were approved by the Southern Illinois Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (protocol: 15-044) and conducted under permits from the Missouri Department of Conservation (permit #17126) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (permit no. TE82666A-2).

Data accessibility

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study will be available in the Dryad Digital Repository.

Supplementary material

442_2018_4300_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (413 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 412 kb)
442_2018_4300_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (53 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 53 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, Department of ZoologySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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