Consequences of Different Types of Littoral Zone Light Pollution on the Parental Care Behaviour of a Freshwater Teleost Fish

Abstract

Ecological light pollution occurs when artificial lights disrupt the natural regimes of individual organisms or their ecosystems. Increasing development of shoreline habitats leads to increased light pollution (e.g., from cottages, docks, automobile traffic), which could impact the ecology of littoral zones of lakes and rivers. Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) engage in sole paternal care, guarding their nest continually, day and night, to protect their developing offspring. Any alterations to their behaviour—either directly because of the response to light or indirectly due to changes in nest predator activity and associated response of the bass—could lead to increased energetic demands for fish that have a fixed energy budget and ultimately reduce reproductive success. To examine this issue, tri-axial accelerometer biologgers were externally attached to nesting smallmouth bass during the egg stage to determine whether light pollution (i.e., dock lights with low levels of continuous light and spotlights with high intensity irregular light simulating automobile traffic) altered behaviour of nesting males relative to control fish. Our study revealed that both types of light pollution increased overall bass activity level compared with the control group. The intermittent light treatment group had the highest activity and exhibited large fluctuations between night and day activity levels. Fish in the continual light treatment group displayed statistically higher activity than the control fish but showed limited fluctuations between day and night activity levels. Our results suggest that continuous or intermittent light sources, common in shoreline habitats that have been developed, have the potential to alter the behaviour and thus energy use of nest-guarding fish. This study contributes to the growing body of literature on the ecological consequences of light pollution in aquatic ecosystems.

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Acknowledgments

We thank J. Rudd, L. Elmer, J. Logan, E. Cooke, S. Clarke, W. Twardek, T. Prystay, J. Brooks, C. Reid, S. Jain-Schlaepfer, and C. Elvidge for assistance in tagging fish in the field. We gratefully acknowledge F. Phelan and all staff at the Queens’s University Biological Station for supplying facilities and support for this research and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry of Ontario for the necessary fish collection permit. This research was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Research Chairs Program and Carleton University.

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Correspondence to Steven J. Cooke.

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Foster, J.G., Algera, D.A., Brownscombe, J.W. et al. Consequences of Different Types of Littoral Zone Light Pollution on the Parental Care Behaviour of a Freshwater Teleost Fish. Water Air Soil Pollut 227, 404 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-016-3106-6

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Keywords

  • Behavioural alteration
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Light pollution