Research team 

Mira Van den Broeck :                  PhD student

Prof. dr. Erik Matthysen :             Supervising professor

dr. Raphaël de Cock :                     Co-supervisor

 Artificial light at night (ALAN) forms an important threat to wildlife and it is one of the most widespread types of anthropogenic sensory pollution occurring worldwide. ALAN is a relatively novel anthropogenic stressor, that emerged about a century ago with an important expansion observed for the past few decades. Changes in natural light regimes and wavelengths due to artificial lights are therefore recent in evolutionary times, offering an opportunity to study adaptations under rapid environmental change.

The aim of this project is to provide more insight in how ALAN affects a luminescence-based mating system, what underlying mechanisms are at play and how these effects may be mitigated by changes in a set of candidate traits, both in behaviour and visual sensitivity. The nocturnal and bioluminescent European common glow-worm (Lampyris noctiluca) is used as a model species. ALAN has repeatedly been shown to strongly affect the courtship behaviour and mating success of glow-worms and fireflies (see Highlighted publications below), with potentially negative consequences at the population level.

The major research hypothesis of this project is that ALAN disrupts the sexual communication and consequently lowers the mating success of glow-worms, and thus generates a major selection pressure on behavioural and possibly neurophysiological adaptations in males, females  and larvae.

This hypothesis will be addressed through the following research questions:

1)      What are the underlying electrophysiological visual mechanisms mediating the lowered mate-

         finding success induced by ALAN?

2)      What is the impact of different light types on mate-finding success in L. noctiluca?

3)      Do glow-worm populations differ in traits that may mitigate or compensate the effects of ALAN in 

          behaviour and light perception, and are these traits related to exposure to ALAN?

4)      Are observed population differences of genetic or plastic origin?

5)      Can these findings be generalized to other Lampyridae species?

These questions will be addressed using electroretinography, behavioural experiments in the lab, common garden experiments and neutral genetic markers.

The glow-worm topic was first introduced in the EVECO group by  dr. Raphaël De Cock.   He finished his PhD in 2004 about the adaptive value of bioluminescent behaviour in glow-worm larvae, under the supervision of  prof. dr. Erik Matthysen.

Contact information:    Mira Van den Broeck     ( )

This project is funded by FWO Vlaanderen.

Highlighted publications

Van den Broeck, M., De Cock, R., Van Dongen, S., & Matthysen, E. (2021). White LED light intensity, but not colour temperature, interferes with mate‐finding by glow‐worm (Lampyris noctiluca L.) males. Journal of Insect Conservation, 25(2), 339-347.

Van den Broeck, M., De Cock, R., Van Dongen, S., & Matthysen, E. (2021). Blinded by the Light: Artificial Light Lowers Mate Attraction Success in Female Glow-Worms (Lampyris noctiluca L.). Insects, 12(8), 734.

Popular articles  (in dutch)

Article on : “Licht uit voor de glimworm”, (08/04/2021)

Blog post on “ Lichtvervuiling doet de glimworm uitdoven”, (16/06/2021)

On « Glimworm in gevaar door straatverlichting: "Mannetje vindt glimmend vrouwtje niet meer voor seks" », (09/04/2021)

In the Gazet van Antwerpen «Biologen UAntwerpen: “Doe het licht uit zodat glimwormen kunnen paren”» (09/04/2021).

A short interview on a local radio station (Radio 2) of Antwerp (09/04/2021). 

Popular articles (in french)

Article from Walloon magazine Carnets des Espaces Naturels: En danger sous nos lumières artificielles


Dr. John Day, UK Center for Ecology & Hydrology

Prof. Jeremy Niven, University of Sussex

Prof. Arja Kaitala, University of Oulu

Prof. Ulrika Candolin, University of Helsinki

Dr. Ana Catalán, University of Munich