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Curr Biol. 2009 Jul 14;19(13):1123-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.05.058. Epub 2009 Jun 18.

Street lighting disturbs commuting bats.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK.


Anthropogenic disturbance is a major cause of worldwide declines in biodiversity. Understanding the implications of this disturbance for species and populations is crucial for conservation biologists wishing to mitigate negative effects. Anthropogenic light pollution is an increasing global problem, affecting ecological interactions across a range of taxa and impacting negatively upon critical animal behaviors including foraging, reproduction, and communication (for review see). Almost all bats are nocturnal, making them ideal subjects for testing the effects of light pollution. Previous studies have shown that bat species adapted to foraging in open environments feed on insects attracted to mercury vapor lamps. Here, we use an experimental approach to provide the first evidence of a negative effect of artificial light pollution on the commuting behavior of a threatened bat species. We installed high-pressure sodium lights that mimic the intensity and light spectra of streetlights along commuting routes of lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros). Bat activity was reduced dramatically and the onset of commuting behavior was delayed in the presence of lighting, with no evidence of habituation. These results demonstrate that light pollution may have significant negative impacts upon the selection of flight routes by bats.

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