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Light Pollution, Circadian Photoreception, and Melatonin in Vertebrates

Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, 12435 Berlin, Germany
Department of Biology, Chemistry and Pharmacy, Institute of Biology, Freie Universität Berlin, 14195 Berlin, Germany
The Israeli Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Chronobiology, University of Haifa, 31905 Haifa, Israel
Department of Electrical Engineering and Automation, Aalto University, 02150 Espoo, Finland
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G128QQ, UK
Institute for Clinical Epidemiology and Biometry, University of Würzburg, 97080 Würzburg, Germany
Remote Sensing, GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
Department of Physical Oceanography, Israel Oceanography and Limnology Research, Tel Shikmona, 31080 Haifa, Israel
University Research Office, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds LS1 3HE, UK
Clinical and Population Studies Department, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Leeds, Leeds LS29JT, UK
The Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft Laboratory, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33OHT, UK
Department of Animal Physiology and Ethology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University, 84215 Bratislava, Slovakia
Dutch Butterfly Conservation, 6700 AM Wageningen, The Netherlands
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(22), 6400;
Received: 30 September 2019 / Revised: 9 November 2019 / Accepted: 10 November 2019 / Published: 14 November 2019
Artificial light at night (ALAN) is increasing exponentially worldwide, accelerated by the transition to new efficient lighting technologies. However, ALAN and resulting light pollution can cause unintended physiological consequences. In vertebrates, production of melatonin—the “hormone of darkness” and a key player in circadian regulation—can be suppressed by ALAN. In this paper, we provide an overview of research on melatonin and ALAN in vertebrates. We discuss how ALAN disrupts natural photic environments, its effect on melatonin and circadian rhythms, and different photoreceptor systems across vertebrate taxa. We then present the results of a systematic review in which we identified studies on melatonin under typical light-polluted conditions in fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, including humans. Melatonin is suppressed by extremely low light intensities in many vertebrates, ranging from 0.01–0.03 lx for fishes and rodents to 6 lx for sensitive humans. Even lower, wavelength-dependent intensities are implied by some studies and require rigorous testing in ecological contexts. In many studies, melatonin suppression occurs at the minimum light levels tested, and, in better-studied groups, melatonin suppression is reported to occur at lower light levels. We identify major research gaps and conclude that, for most groups, crucial information is lacking. No studies were identified for amphibians and reptiles and long-term impacts of low-level ALAN exposure are unknown. Given the high sensitivity of vertebrate melatonin production to ALAN and the paucity of available information, it is crucial to research impacts of ALAN further in order to inform effective mitigation strategies for human health and the wellbeing and fitness of vertebrates in natural ecosystems. View Full-Text
Keywords: ALAN; artificial light at night; biological rhythm; circadian rhythm; melatonin ALAN; artificial light at night; biological rhythm; circadian rhythm; melatonin
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MDPI and ACS Style

Grubisic, M.; Haim, A.; Bhusal, P.; Dominoni, D.M.; Gabriel, K.M.A.; Jechow, A.; Kupprat, F.; Lerner, A.; Marchant, P.; Riley, W.; Stebelova, K.; van Grunsven, R.H.A.; Zeman, M.; Zubidat, A.E.; Hölker, F. Light Pollution, Circadian Photoreception, and Melatonin in Vertebrates. Sustainability 2019, 11, 6400.

AMA Style

Grubisic M, Haim A, Bhusal P, Dominoni DM, Gabriel KMA, Jechow A, Kupprat F, Lerner A, Marchant P, Riley W, Stebelova K, van Grunsven RHA, Zeman M, Zubidat AE, Hölker F. Light Pollution, Circadian Photoreception, and Melatonin in Vertebrates. Sustainability. 2019; 11(22):6400.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Grubisic, Maja, Abraham Haim, Pramod Bhusal, Davide M. Dominoni, Katharina M. A. Gabriel, Andreas Jechow, Franziska Kupprat, Amit Lerner, Paul Marchant, William Riley, Katarina Stebelova, Roy H. A. van Grunsven, Michal Zeman, Abed E. Zubidat, and Franz Hölker. 2019. "Light Pollution, Circadian Photoreception, and Melatonin in Vertebrates" Sustainability 11, no. 22: 6400.

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