An essential "natural recycler" species might become confused by light pollution

An essential “natural recycler” species might become confused by light pollution

June 15, 2023 By admin

Although woodlice may have an unsettling appearance, they are harmless and a vital component of many ecosystems. Like worms, they mostly consume decaying plant and fungus matter and play a vital role in recycling. A recent study discovered that a certain species of woodlouse may be misled by dispersed light pollution in the night sky.

Depending on who you ask, Ligia oceanica is often referred to as the “littoral zone woodlouse,” the sea slater, or the “sea rock.” It inhabits coastal areas and may be found in the UK and other regions of Europe. The species of woodlouse forage throughout the night and may alter their coloration to fit in and conceal from predators.

But according to a recent study, the results of which were published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scattered pollution at night can confound these animals and make their camouflage ineffective.

The effects of a single-point light source and diffused light on sea slaters were examined by the researchers. The diffused light they studied resembled the “skyglow” that can be seen near twins and towns as a result of light pollution, but single-point light sources produced distinct shadows. The diffused light, however, caused the animals to seem paler while hiding against a black background while the point-light source had no effect on their ability to blend in. This increased their visibility.

“It’s critical to comprehend how the natural world will be impacted by the brightening of night sky throughout the planet. Our findings demonstrate that shadow-casting light may have quite different effects on diffuse skyglow, even when both have the same overall brightness. Artificial light is known to have a variety of harmful consequences on both animals and plants. Bullough is a University of Exeter PhD student.

When exposed to a point-source light, the sea slaters reportedly became darker, according to Bullough. On any accessible dark stones and shadows, they also made an effort to conceal themselves. However, diffused light confused them and made them lighter, making them simpler to identify for predators.

Although the researchers are unsure of exactly how the diffused light affects the sea slaters’ ability to change colour, it’s likely that they are reacting to the light as though dawn is about to break.

Sea slaters are an essential component of their local ecology, while not being an endangered or vulnerable species. They operate as a sort of “natural recycler” by dissolving decaying plant and animal materials. Many seashore-dwelling birds may rely on them as a major food source.