Anthropogenic Disturbances and Behavior
Behavioral innovations allow animals to adjust their behavior to solve novel problems. While innovative behavior can be important for animals living in new environments, anthropogenic pollution may limit their ability to adapt by impairing cognition or motivation. In particular, exposure to light pollution at night can cause sleep deprivation and may, therefore, hinder innovative behavior. To test this hypothesis, we examined experimentally whether exposure to acute light pollution impacts problem-solving success in peafowl (Pavo cristatus). We found that their problem-solving success was unrelated to short-term light pollution exposure. Other factors, including persistence, sex of the bird, and moon illumination, influenced their success in solving the task. The results suggest that short-term exposure to light pollution does not limit behavioral innovation, but long-term studies are necessary to further probe this question.
Artificial light pollution is drastically changing the sensory environments of animals. Even though many animals are now living in these changed environments, the effect light pollution has on animal behavior is poorly understood. With a team of undergraduates (Sydney Byerley, Jeanee Coy, Aisyah Aziz, Jamie Wolf, and Amanda Gnerlich), we investigated the effect of light pollution on nocturnal vigilance in peahens (Pavo cristatus). We found that light pollution significantly increases nocturnal vigilance in peahens. Furthermore, the birds faced a trade-off between vigilance and sleep at night: peahens that were more vigilant spent less time sleeping. Given the choice, peahens preferred to roost away from high levels of artificial lighting but showed no preference for roosting without artificial lighting or with low levels of artificial lighting. Our study demonstrated that light pollution can have a substantial impact on animal behavior that can potentially result in fitness consequences.