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Data from: Early-life exposure to artificial light at night elevates physiological stress in free-living songbirds

Citation

Grunst, Melissa L. et al. (2020), Data from: Early-life exposure to artificial light at night elevates physiological stress in free-living songbirds, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.4tmpg4f6p

Abstract

Artificial light at night (ALAN) can disrupt adaptive patterns of physiology and behavior that promote high fitness, resulting in physiological stress and elevation of steroid glucocorticoids (corticosterone, CORT in birds). Elevated CORT may have particularly profound effects early in life, with the potential for enduring effects that persist into adulthood. Research on the consequences of early-life exposure to ALAN remains limited, especially outside of the laboratory, and whether light exposure affects CORT concentrations in wild nestling birds particularly remains to be elucidated. We used an experimental setup to test the hypothesis that ALAN elevates CORT concentrations in developing free-living birds, by exposing nestling great tits (Parus major) to ALAN inside nest boxes. We measured CORT in feathers grown over the timeframe of the experiment (7 nights), such that CORT concentrations represent an integrative metric of hormone release over the period of nocturnal light exposure, and of development. We also assessed the relationships between feather CORT concentrations, body condition, nestling size rank and fledging success. In addition, we evaluated the relationship between feather CORT concentrations and telomere length. Nestlings exposed to ALAN had higher feather CORT concentrations than control nestlings, and nestlings in poorer body condition and smaller brood members also had higher CORT. On the other hand, telomere length, fledging success, and recruitment rate were not significantly associated with light exposure or feather CORT concentrations. Results indicate that exposure to ALAN elevates CORT concentrations in nestlings, which may reflect physiological stress. In addition, the organizational effects of CORT are known to be substantial. Thus, despite the lack of an effect on telomere length and survivorship, elevated CORT concentrations in nestlings exposed to ALAN may have subsequent impacts on later-life fitness and stress sensitivity.

Methods

Nestling great tits (Parus major) were experimentally exposed to artificial light at night for 7 nights.  Blood samples were taken both before (day 8) and after (day 15) the light manipulation to assess telomere shortening and feather samples were taken on day 15 to measure corticosterone levels.  Feathers from which corticosterone levels were measured were grown over the timeframe of the experiment. Relative telomere length was measured using quantitative PCR and corticosterone was measured using standard radioimmunoassay techniques. Morphometric measurements (mass, tarsus length) were also taken on day 8 and15.  

Funding

European Commission, Award: 799667

Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Award: 1.1.044.15 N

Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Award: 1.1.044.17 N

Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Award: 1.2I35.17 N

Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Award: G0A3615 N

Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Award: G052117N

Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Award: ANR URBASTRESS

Agence Nationale de la Recherche, Award: ANR-16-CE02-0004-01