Reduced light avoidance in spiders from populations in light-polluted urban environments
Increased urbanisation is leading to a rise in light pollution. Light pollution can disrupt the behaviour and physiology of animals resulting in increased mortality. However, animals may also benefit from artificial light sources, as these may aggregate prey or signal suitable environments. For example, spiders are commonly seen congregating around artificial light sources. Changes in selective pressures engendered by urban environments are driving changes in urban organisms, driving better adaptation to these environments. Here, we ask whether urban populations of the synanthropic spider Steatoda triangulosa show different responses to light compared to rural populations. Egg-sacs from urban and rural populations were collected and incubated in a common garden setting, and the emerging spiderlings tested for light preference. While rural spiderlings avoided light (37% built webs in the light), urban spiderlings were indifferent to it (49% built webs in the light). Reduced light avoidance may benefit spiders through increased prey capture, increased movement into suitable habitats, or due to a release from selection pressure from visually hunting predators which do not enter buildings.
KeywordsLight pollution Urban evolution Anthropogenic selection Urbanisation Artificial light at night Steatoda triangulosa
We thank Fabio De Vita, Marco Bianco, and Pietro Canepa for help with spider collection and provision of local information. TJC was funded by a Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Emmy Noether grant number CZ 237/1-1.
TJC conceived of the study, wrote the manuscript, and analysed the data. TJC and CT coordinated the study. CT provided logistical support and laboratory space. PG collected the spiders. AMB collected the data. All authors helped design the study and gave final approval for publication.
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