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Data from: Color polarization vision mediates the strength of an evolutionary trap

Cite this dataset

Robertson, Bruce A.; Horváth, Gábor (2018). Data from: Color polarization vision mediates the strength of an evolutionary trap [Dataset]. Dryad.


Evolutionary traps are scenarios in which animals are fooled by rapidly changing conditions into preferring poor-quality resources over those that better improve survival and reproductive success. The maladaptive attraction of aquatic insects to artificial sources of horizontally polarized light (e.g. glass buildings, asphalt roads) has become a first model system by which scientists can investigate the behavioral mechanisms that cause traps to occur. We employ this field-based system to experimentally investigate 1) in which portion(s) of the spectrum are polarizationally water-imitating reflectors attractive to nocturnal terrestrial and aquatics insects, and 2) which modern lamp types result in greater attraction in this typical kind of nocturnal polarized light pollution. We found that most aquatic taxa exhibited preferences for lamps based upon their color spectra, most having lowest preference for lamps emitting blue and red light. Yet despite previously established preference for higher degrees of polarization of reflected light, most aquatic insect families were attracted to traps based upon their unpolarized spectrum. Chironomid midges, alone, showed a preference for the color of lamplight in both the horizontally polarized and unpolarized spectra indicating only this family has evolved to use light in this color range as a source of information to guide its nocturnal habitat selection. These results demonstrate that the color of artificial lighting can exacerbate or reduce its attractiveness to aquatic insects, but that the strength of attractiveness of nocturnal evolutionary traps, and so their demographic consequences, are primarily driven by unpolarized light pollution. This focuses management attention on limiting broad-spectrum light pollution, as well as its intentional deployment to attract insects back to natural habitats.

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New York
northern Hudson Valley