Study reveals light pollution prevents clownfish from hatching

If you loved the clownfish characters in Disney/Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” you’ll be disappointed to learn that light pollution is threatening them because their eggs won’t hatch because of it.

A team of researchers in Australia made the alarming discovery while conducting an experiment using ten pairs of clownfish, each of which can produce hundreds to thousands of eggs.

Half of the pairs were exposed to natural light like natural coral reefs, where clownfish thrive and have symbiotic relationships with sea anemones that offer shelter and protection. The other half were exposed to artificial light at night, also known as (ALAN) in the report, which is produced by humans.

The results were stunning and demonstrated that humans are definitely negatively impacting clownfish populations with light pollution.

“The overwhelming finding is that artificial light pollution can have a devastating effect on reproductive success of coral reef fish,” Flinders University Research Associate Dr. Emily Fobert told EcoWatch.

In fact, the light pollution resulted in zero eggs hatching to the fish exposed to it.

“When ALAN is present, no eggs hatched but when the light was removed during the recovery period, eggs from the ALAN exposure hatched like normal, so the presence of light is clearly interfering with an environmental cue that initiates hatching in clownfish,” Fobert continued.

Worse yet, Fobert says that if clownfish are so affected by light pollution, it means other marine species are as well.

“These findings likely extend to other reef fish as many share similar reproductive behaviors, including the timing of hatching during early evening,” she said.

Just as noise pollution has proven to be harmful to birds, it’s now clear that light pollution is a threat to marine wildlife. And it’s an increasing threat because artificial light is spreading as the population grows and modernizes.

The findings have shocked ecologists around the world, who are now sounding the alarm over light pollution.

“I wasn’t expecting the result to be that nothing hatched,” Bangor University ecologists Thomas Davies told National Geographic. “It’s quite worrying, a really big result that speaks to how light pollution can have a really big impact on marine species. Zero percent hatching is essentially no recruiting to the next generation and could cause extinction in a species. It’s quite profound.”

Humans need to find a solution to prevent light pollution from threatening wildlife. We need fish in the food chain for our survival and the survival of several other species. Hotter global temperatures are already killing fish. The last thing we need is for them to not be able to reproduce to replace the ones that are dying off. It’s a double whammy we just can’t afford.

If we do nothing and let the problem persist, the only way we’ll ever see clownfish in the future is in a pair of animated films. And that would be depressing.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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