We recently published a new paper in Science of The Total Environment entitled Artificial light at night disrupts male dominance relationships and reproductive success in a model fish species. This paper is based on the work performed by our master student, Lauren Closs who came from USA with a fullbright fellowship , and a collaboration with Amin Sayyari.
In this paper, we show using the model fish medaka that light pollution can affect the sperm quality of certain individuals within a fish population by benefiting dominant males. It can thus have an impact on the genetic diversity of a population. But more importantly, it is very surprising that light pollution can affect sperm quality in vertebrates.
Abstract: Environmental light is perceived and anticipated by organisms to synchronize their biological cycles. Therefore, artificial light at night (ALAN) disrupts both diurnal and seasonal biological rhythms. Reproduction is a complex physiological process involving integration of environmental signals by the brain, and release of endocrine signals by the pituitary that regulate gametogenesis and spawning. In addition, males from many species form a dominance hierarchy that, through a combination of aggressive and protective behavior, influences their reproductive success. In this study, we investigated the effect of ALAN and continuous daylight on the behavior and fitness of male fish within a dominance hierarchy using a model fish, the Japanese medaka. In normal light/dark cycles, male medaka establish a hierarchy with the dominant males being more aggressive and remaining closer to the female thus limiting the access of subordinate males to females during spawning. However, determination of the paternity of the progeny revealed that even though subordinate males spend less time with the females, they are, in normal light conditions, equally successful at producing progeny due to an efficient sneaking behavior. Continuous daylight completely inhibited the establishment of male hierarchy, whereas ALAN did not affect it. Nonetheless, when exposed to ALAN, subordinate males fertilize far fewer eggs. Furthermore, we found that when exposed to ALAN, subordinate males produced lower quality sperm than dominant males. Surprisingly, we found no differences in circulating sex steroid levels, pituitary gonadotropin levels, or gonadosomatic index between dominant and subordinate males, neither in control nor ALAN condition. This study is the first to report an effect of ALAN on sperm quality leading to a modification of male fertilization success in any vertebrate. While this work was performed in a model fish species, our results suggest that in urban areas ALAN may impact the genetic diversity of species displaying dominance behavior.
You can read the paper in open access here : https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.166406