Exposure to artificial light at night (ALAN) alters RNA:DNA ratios in a sandy beach coleopteran insect

D. Quintanilla-Ahumada, P. A. Quijón, J. Pulgar, P. H. Manríquez, M. Roberto García-Huidobro, C. Duarte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Coastal habitats worldwide, including sandy beaches, are becoming increasingly exposed to Artificial Light at Night (ALAN). Despite the spread of this global stressor, research assessing ALAN potential impacts remain scarce, particularly at the molecular level. This study addressed this gap by assessing the influence of ALAN on the physiological condition of the sandy beach insect Phalerisida maculata Kulzer (Coleoptera, Tenebrionidae). RNA:DNA ratios were used here as a proxy of the insect's nutritional condition in laboratory trials that lasted 20 d. Insects were exposed to two representative ALAN conditions (either 60 or 120 lx) and compared with those maintained in a natural daylight/night cycle (0 lx at nigth; control). After the trial, organisms from each treatment were frozen in liquid nitrogen and standard protocols were followed to estimate RNA, DNA and RNA:DNA ratios. Estimates of RNA:DNA ratios from insects maintained in control conditions were significantly higher (P < 0.05) than those from insects exposed to ALAN. The reduced nutritional condition of insects exposed to light pollution is explained by the lower in situ biosynthetic capacity in these organisms resulting from a reduction in their feeding. ALAN likely altered P. maculata normal locomotor activity, which takes place primarily at night, forcing the insects to remain buried in the sand for extended periods of time. As ALAN continues to spread along coastlines worldwide, there is a likelihood of growing impacts on these and other species living on sandy beaches and other coastal habitats.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112132
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • ALAN
  • Phalerisida maculata
  • RNA:DNA ratio
  • Sandy beach ecosystems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


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