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The effect of artificial night lighting on individual and community fitness

Light pollution over the city of Melbourne

Sky-glow from the city of Melbourne

Since the introduction of electrical street lighting many species live in environments with no period of “true darkness”. Scattered light from urban areas may extend beyond city boundaries resulting in regions that have no street lighting but that are still exposed to unnaturally long periods of light. Accumulating evidence suggests that such “urban light pollution” has catastrophic implications for an individual’s health and fitness, but the mechanism underlying this remains unconfirmed.

One proposed explanation is that increased duration of light has a detrimental effect on melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone found in virtually all species. Melatonin, known for its role in relaying information about night and day, is a powerful antioxidant that has the potential to reduce oxidative stress and maintain an individual’s health, fitness and reproductive potential. Levels of melatonin are dramatically reduced by exposure to light. The links between urban light pollution, reductions in health and fitness, and melatonin levels have never been tested explicitly.

My group is currently exploring the importance of each and will determine the underlying mechanism using vertebrate and invertebrate models. This is an international collaboration with Prof Kevin Gaston (University of Exeter, UK), Prof Marcel Visser (Netherlands Institute of Ecology) and Prof Mark Elgar (University of Melbourne). Funded by an ARC Discovery grant and the Hermon Slade Foundation.

Relevant papers

Jones TM, Michaelides EB, Durrant J & Green M (2015) Melatonin: a possible link between the presence of artificial light at night and reductions in biological fitness. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Contribution to thematic issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society entitled ‘The biological impacts of artificial light at night: from molecules to communities – June 2015). Accepted Dec 2015.

Durrant J, Michaelides EB, Rupasinghe T, Tull D, Green MP & Jones TM (2015) Constant illumination reduces circulating melatonin and impairs immune function in the cricket Teleogryllus commodus. PeerJ In press. Accepted Jun 2015

Pheromone communication

Does diet influence web-based pheromones in Argiope?

Does diet influence web-based pheromones in Argiope?

Chemical communication is one of the most ubiquitous modes of communication within the animal kingdom and an increasing number of studies have revealed the importance of pheromones for mate choice. We have explored pheromone-based female mating preferences and male mating success in a range of invertebrates (including sandflies, beetles, moths and Hawaiian Drosophila). We are currently exploring the relative importance of variation in diet for species, sex and individual based pheromone cues in species of Argiope, a group of cannibalistic spiders.

Relevant papers

Davie LC, Jones TM & Elgar MA (2010) The role of chemical communication in sexual selection: hair-pencil displays in the diamondback moth Plutella xylostella. Animal Behaviour. 79: 391-399.

Johansson BG & Jones TM (2007) The role of chemical signals in sexual selection. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 82: 265-289.

Sexual Selection and Sexual Conflict

Female spiny leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)

Female spiny leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum)

Contrary to popular belief, interactions between the sexes are rarely harmonious. Instead, conflict between the sexes over reproductive interests and investments is infinitely more typical and is the driver for evolutionary change. In my lab we have explored the role of sexual conflict in determining sex role reversed nuptial by female Zeus bugs, Phoreticovelia disparata (in collaboration with Prof Mark Elgar, and Prof Göran Arnqvist); the evolution of small body size in the golden orb weaving spider, Nephila edulis (in collaboration with Prof Mark Elgar) and the role of male reproductive investment in maintaining monandry in the almond moth (in collaboration with Dr Kathryn McNamara). We are currently exploring the evolution of facultative parthenogenesis in the spiny leaf stick insect.

Relevant papers

Jones TM, Elgar MA & Arnqvist G (2010) Extreme cost of male riding behaviour for juvenile females of the Zeus bug, Phoreticovelia disparata. Animal Behaviour. 116: 11-16. [IF = 3.068; Citations = 8]

McNamara KB, Elgar MA & Jones TM (2008) A longevity cost of re-mating, but no benefits of polyandry in the almond moth, Cadra cautella. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 62:1433-1440. [IF = 2.75; Citations = 15]

Arnqvist GA, Jones TM & Elgar MA (2003) Sex role reversed nuptial feeding in Zeus bugs. Nature, 424: 387. [IF = 38.60; Citations = 23]

Arnqvist GA, Jones TM & Elgar MA (2006) Sex role reversed nuptial feeding reduces male kleptoparasitism of females in Zeus bugs (Heteroptera; Veliidae). Biology Letters. 2: 491-493. [IF = 3.35; Citations = 10]

Gender Bias in STEM

The impact of gender bias in Science Technology and Mathematics (STEM) is a subject I find both fascinating and at times disturbing. I have been a member of the faculty of science Staff Equal Opportunity committee for four years and regularly lead small workshops with the Evolution and Behaviour group (School of BioSciences) to discuss gender issues. I recently co-authored a short paper that compared gender differences in visibility at an evolutionary biology conference (Jones et al 2014). Participants could request either a long talk (12 min) or short talk (5 min). Despite having a nearly equal ratio of women and men attendees, we found that women spoke for ~20% less time than men of an equivalent academic level. Furthermore, this difference was not because men were more likely to present, but because men were nearly three times more likely than women to opt for a long talk. What was most interesting was that this pattern was true for both academics and students. We subsequently co-authored a blog piece for the London School of Economics (Striving for gender equity in science) and it is an area which remain of interest in the future.

Follow up blog piece:

Relevant papers

Jones TM, Fanson K, Lanfear R, Symonds MR & Higgie M (2014) Gender differences in visibility at conferences may be due to female risk-aversion. PeerJ. 2: e627


Current Projects Word Cloud

Current Projects Word Cloud