Sara M Lewis

Sara M Lewis
Tufts University | Tufts · Department of Biology

A.B. Harvard Ph.D. Duke

About

119
Publications
46,358
Reads
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5,704
Citations
Citations since 2017
23 Research Items
2091 Citations
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Introduction
Sara Lewis is Professor of Biology at Tufts University in Boston, USA, and co-chair of the IUCN-SSC Firefly Specialist Group. An evolutionary ecologist, her previous research interests include coral reef ecology, courtship and mating behavior in insects, pre- and post-copulatory sexual selection, and vacancy chains and shell selection in hermit crabs. Her current work focuses on firefly conservation, including impact of artificial light, and educational outreach.
Additional affiliations
January 1991 - present
Tufts University
Position
  • Professor
January 1989 - September 1991
Harvard University
Position
  • Science Scholar - Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
January 1988 - January 1989
Harvard University
Position
  • AAUW Postdoctoral Fellow

Publications

Publications (119)
Article
Full-text available
Bioluminescent insects have been the subject of scientific interest and popular wonder for millennia. But in the 21st century, the fireflies, click beetles, and cave glow-worms that brighten our nights are threatened by an unprecedented competitor: anthropogenic light pollution. Artificial lights can obscure the light-based signals on which these a...
Article
Full-text available
Anthropogenic light pollution is a novel environmental disruption that affects the movement, foraging and mating behaviour of nocturnal animals. Most of these effects are sublethal, and their net impact on reproductive fitness and population persistence is often extrapolated from behavioural data. Without dedicated tracking of wild individuals, how...
Article
Full-text available
The expansion of human activity into natural habitats often results in the introduction of artificial light at night, which can disrupt local ecosystems. Recent advances in LED technology have enabled spectral tuning of artificial light sources, which could in theory limit their impact on vulnerable taxa. To date, however, experimental comparisons...
Article
Full-text available
Traducción al español publicada según Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 licencia. Las luciérnagas son escarabajos carismáticos que despliegan atractivas demostraciones bioluminiscentes de cortejo; y, que recientemente se han posicionado en el escenario mundial del turismo de naturaleza. Este artículo proporciona la primera revisión completa del alcance g...
Preprint
Full-text available
The expansion of human activity into natural habitats often results in the introduction of artificial light at night, which can disrupt local ecosystems. Recent advances in LED technology have enabled spectral tuning of artificial light sources, which could in theory limit their impact on vulnerable taxa. To date, however, experimental comparisons...
Article
Full-text available
Fireflies are a family of charismatic beetles known for their bioluminescent signals. Recent anecdotal reports suggest that firefly populations in North America may be in decline. However, prior to this work, no studies have undertaken a systematic compilation of geographic distribution, habitat specificity, and threats facing North American firefl...
Article
• The rapid spread of artificial light at night (ALAN) poses myriad problems for nocturnal biodiversity. • Bioluminescent taxa that communicate via glowing lures, warning signals, or courtship advertisements may have their signals obscured by artificial illumination, unless the added light is spectrally tuned to reduce its impact. • Previous resear...
Article
Full-text available
Fireflies are charismatic beetles with attractive bioluminescent courtship displays that have recently been swept onto the global stage of nature tourism. Here, we provide the first comprehensive review of the geographic scope, magnitude, focal species, and other attributes of the major firefly tourism sites worldwide. Through targeted interviews a...
Article
Holometabolous insects exhibit complex life cycles in which both morphology and ecological niche change dramatically during development. In the larval stage, many insects have soft, slow-moving bodies and poor vision, limiting their ability to respond to environmental threats. Artificial light at night (ALAN) is an environmental perturbation known...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Fireflies are some of our most celebrated insects. They have immense cultural, biological, and economic importance and are important components of natural ecosystems. Their public appeal also makes them ideal flagship species for conservation. In this document, we outline the importance of fireflies and describe their life histories and threats to...
Poster
Full-text available
Where have all the fireflies gone? The Firefly Watch citizen science project was begun in 2008, spearheaded by a group of scientists supported by the Boston Museum of Science, to solicit help from the wider community in addressing the relative dearth of long-term data on bioluminescent firefly beetles (Coleoptera: Lampyridae). The process is simple...
Article
Full-text available
In recent decades, advances in lighting technology have precipitated exponential increases in night sky brightness worldwide, raising concerns in the scientific community about the impact of artificial light at night (ALAN) on crepuscular and nocturnal biodiversity. Long‐term records show that insect abundance has declined significantly over this t...
Article
Full-text available
Fireflies and their luminous courtships have inspired centuries of scientific study. Today firefly luciferase is widely used in biotechnology, but the evolutionary origin of bioluminescence within beetles remains unclear. To shed light on this long-standing question, we sequenced the genomes of two firefly species that diverged over 100 million-yea...
Article
Environmental conditions change the effectiveness of animal signals by affecting the contrast between the signal and the background. In aquatic environments, fluctuations in water clarity likely drive the evolution of signalling systems by affecting signal conspicuousness. However, the effects of turbidity on signalling in many aquatic organisms re...
Poster
Avalon C.S. Owens¹, Sarah Sander Lower², Kathrin Stanger-Hall³, Sara Lewis¹ - Crepuscular fireflies such as Photinus pyralis emit yellower flashes (560-580 nm) than their nocturnal relatives (550-560 nm). This spectral shift is likely in response to ambient light environment: yellow contrasts more against green foliage visible at twilight. Firefly...
Preprint
Full-text available
Fireflies and their fascinating luminous courtships have inspired centuries of scientific study. Today firefly luciferase is widely used in biotechnology, but the evolutionary origin of their bioluminescence remains unclear. To shed light on this long-standing question, we sequenced the genomes of two firefly species that diverged over 100 million-...
Article
Full-text available
Seminal fluid proteins (SFPs) produced in the male accessory glands and ejaculatory duct are subject to strong sexual selection, often evolve rapidly and therefore may play a key role in reproductive isolation and species formation. However, little is known about reproductive proteins for species in which males transfer ejaculate to females using a...
Article
Full-text available
Conspicuous, colorful displays are often used by animals to communicate within and between species. Previously, researchers have manipulated specific components of color signals (i.e., hue, total reflectance, and/or chroma) using paints, photographs, videos, or filters. However, these manipulations may not adequately mimic the spectrum of color sig...
Article
Full-text available
Postcopulatory sexual selection is recognized as a key driver of reproductive trait evolution, including the machinery required to produce endogenous nuptial gifts. Despite the importance of such gifts, the molecular composition of the non-gametic components of male ejaculates and their interactions with female reproductive tracts remain poorly und...
Article
Full-text available
Complex signals are commonly used during intraspecific contests over resources to assess an opponent's fighting ability and/or aggressive state. Stomatopod crustaceans may use complex signals when competing aggressively for refuges. Before physical attacks, stomatopods assess their opponents using chemical cues and perform threat displays showing a...
Article
Full-text available
Mating triggers a cascade of physiological and behavioural responses in females that persist after copulation. In insects, seminal fluid proteins contained within male ejaculates are known to initiate some responses, but our understanding of how females mediate these reactions remains limited. Few studies have examined postmating transcriptional ch...
Article
Throughout an organism's lifetime, resources are strategically allocated to many different functions, including reproduction. Reproduction can be costly for both sexes; females produce nutrient-rich eggs, whereas males of many species produce large and complex ejaculates. In capital breeding insects, nutrients are mainly acquired during the larval...
Article
Full-text available
Tribolium flour beetles have been an important model organism for the study of postcopulatory sexual selection. These beetles are representative of many insects that live in high-density aggregations and therefore experience frequent mating opportunities. However, unlike many such insects, Tribolium females are extremely polyandrous and seemingly p...
Article
Full-text available
In contrast to most other North American fireflies that use flash dialogs for courtship, males of Phausis reticulata Say (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) (Fender 1966), often called blue ghost fireflies, glow as they fly slowly over the forest floor searching for flightless, neotenic females that are likewise bioluminescent. Recently, these Blue Ghost fire...
Article
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While the phenomenon of male mate choice has attracted considerable attention in the last two decades, whether this sexual selection mechanism could drive the evolution of female ornaments remains poorly understood. Here, we used experimental manipulation of female wing coloration to investigate male mate choice in Pieris rapae, a gift-giving butte...
Article
Full-text available
Uniquely positioned at the intersection of sexual selection, nutritional ecology and life-history theory, nuptial gifts are widespread and diverse. Despite extensive empirical study, we still have only a rudimentary understanding of gift evolution because we lack a unified conceptual framework for considering these traits. In this opinion piece, we...
Article
Full-text available
Reproductive proteins often evolve rapidly and are thought to be subject to strong sexual selection, and thus may play a key role in reproductive isolation and species divergence. However, our knowledge of reproductive proteins has been largely limited to males and model organisms with sequenced genomes. With advances in sequencing technology, Lepi...
Article
Full-text available
Animals with complex life cycles respond to early food limitation by altering the way resources are allocated in the adult stage. Response to food limitation should differ between males and females, especially in organisms whose mating systems include nutritional nuptial gifts. In these organisms, males are predicted to keep their allocation to rep...
Chapter
Full-text available
Animal nuptial gifts display multitudinous forms, and such gifts are especially interesting because they sit at the intersection of sexual selection, foraging ecology, and life-history evolution. However, even though such gifts are likely to play key roles in sexual selection and conflict, remarkably little is known about the selective agents respo...
Article
Full-text available
In many insects, nuptial gifts in the form of spermatophores have been shown to increase female fecundity and to contribute to female somatic maintenance. Examining how variation in male spermatophore size affects female fitness components can provide insight into the evolution of nuptial gifts, as well as insight into potential conflicts between t...
Article
Full-text available
Because females often mate with multiple males, it is critical to expand our view of sexual selection to encompass pre-, peri- and post-copulatory episodes to understand how selection drives trait evolution. In Photinus fireflies, females preferentially respond to males based on their bioluminescent courtship signals, but previous work has shown th...
Article
In Tribolium flour beetles and other organisms, individuals migrate between heterogeneous environments where they often encounter markedly different nutritional conditions. Under these circumstances, theory suggests that genotype-by-environment interactions (GEI) may be important in facilitating adaptation to new environments and maintaining geneti...
Article
Full-text available
Food theft is a common foraging strategy in birds, and many arthropods steal prey trapped by orb-weaving spiders. Some fireflies (Coleóptera: Lampyridae) within the North American genus Photuris Dejean (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) are specialist predators which actively hunt for and sequester chemical defenses (lucibufagins) from other fireflies. Here...
Article
Bioluminescent flashing in fireflies, while primarily a sexual signal, is known to deter some predators while attracting others. We tested whether flashing serves an antipredator function against two species of diurnal, visually hunting jumping spiders, Phidippus princeps and Phidippus audax. To confirm anecdotal reports that fireflies flash during...
Article
Full-text available
In the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, the Light Show is a popular seasonal attraction created by thousands of courting male Photinus carolinus fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae) that flash in synchrony to locate females. This study was undertaken to provide a temporal snapshot of whether invertebrate predators are active within these dens...
Article
In several insect species, seminal fluid proteins (SFPs) have been demonstrated to be key regulators of male and female fitness through their ability to alter female physiology and behaviour. Tribolium castaneum is an economically important pest species and a model system for sexual selection research, but little is known about SFPs in this insect....
Article
Full-text available
Although the primary function of mating is gamete transfer, male ejaculates contain numerous other substances that are produced by accessory glands and transferred to females during mating. Studies with several model organisms have shown that these substances can exert diverse behavioural and physiological effects on females, including altered long...
Article
Full-text available
Sexual size dimorphism (SSD) is a conspicuous yet poorly understood pattern across many organisms. Although artificial selection is an important tool for studying the evolution of SSD, previous studies have applied selection to only a single sex or to both sexes in the same direction. In nature, however, SSD likely arises through sex-specific selec...
Article
The beetle family Lampyridae (fireflies) encompasses ∼100 genera worldwide with considerable diversity in life histories and signaling modes. Some lampyrid males use reproductive accessory glands to produce spermatophores, which have been shown to increase female lifetime fecundity. Sexual dimorphism in the form of neotenic and flightless females i...
Article
Full-text available
Tribolium castaneum (Herbst) (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), the red flour beetle, is a common cosmopolitan pest exploiting a variety of stored products. We experimentally manipulated diet nutritional quality by using non-nutritive filler to examine how this influenced pheromone production and olfactory attractiveness of T. castaneum adult males. Vola...
Article
Full-text available
Females often show a preference for exaggerated male sexual traits or courtship behaviors. Such preferences can benefit females if trait expression is correlated with male genetic quality or phenotypic condition. Previous studies of several Photinus fireflies have revealed considerable intraspecific variation in the bioluminescent courtship signals...
Article
Vacancy chains involve unique patterns of resource acquisition behaviors that determine how reusable resources are distributed through animal populations. Shell vacancy chains have been described for several hermit crab species, both terrestrial and marine, but little is known about the ecological and behavioral dynamics of shell choice in social v...
Article
Full-text available
There are several genera of diurnally active fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), and these adults generally do not produce bioluminescent signals. We investigated whether contact sex pheromones play a role in mate recognition in the diurnal firefly Ellychnia corrusca (L.). In laboratory behavioral assays, after antennal contact >70% of males attemp...
Article
Vacancy chain theory describes a unique mechanism for the sequential distribution of animal resources across multiple individuals. This theory applies to any resources, such as shelters or nest sites, that are discrete, reusable, and limited in use to single individuals or groups at one time. Hermit crabs rely on gastropod shells for shelter, and a...
Article
Full-text available
Although the fitness consequences of herbivory on terrestrial plants have been extensively studied, considerably less is known about how partial predation impacts the fitness of clonal marine organisms. The trophic role of Caribbean parrotfish on coral reefs is complex: while these fish are important herbivores, as corallivores (consumers of live c...
Article
Full-text available
Diverse animal groups exhibit homosexual interactions, yet the evolutionary maintenance of such behaviours remains enigmatic as they do not directly increase reproductive success by generating progeny. Here, we use Tribolium castaneum flour beetles, which exhibit frequent male homosexual copulations, to empirically test several hypotheses for the m...
Article
Full-text available
It is well known that herbivores have numerous and diverse impacts on plant and algal fitness, community structure and ecosystem function. The importance of corallivory as a selective force, however, has been underestimated. Corallivores, or consumers of live coral tissue, employ a wide variety of feeding strategies and can be obligate or facultati...
Article
During animal courtship, multiple signals transmitted in different sensory modalities may be used to recognize potential mates. In fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), nocturnally active species rely on long-range bioluminescent signals for species, sex, and mate recognition, while several diurnally active species rely on pheromonal signals. Althoug...
Article
During mating, many male insects transfer sperm packaged within a spermatophore that is produced by reproductive accessory glands. While spermatophores have been documented in some North American fireflies (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), little is known concerning either production or transfer of spermatophores in the aquatic Luciola fireflies widespread...
Article
Full-text available
Sexual selection is a major force driving the evolution of diverse reproductive traits. This evolutionary process is based on individual reproductive advantages that arise either through intrasexual competition or through intersexual choice and conflict. While classical studies of sexual selection focused mainly on differences in male mating succes...
Article
Full-text available
Many key advances in our understanding of firefly biology and signaling have been made over the past two decades. Here we review this recent research, which includes new phylogenetic results that shed light on the evolution of courtship signal diversity within the family Lampyridae, new insights into firefly flash control, and the discovery of fire...
Article
Full-text available
Tribolium castaneum (Herbst) (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), the red flour beetle, is an important cosmopolitan pest of stored grains. Commercial traps baited with the synthetic aggregation pheromone 4,8-dimethyldecanal (DMD) are used to monitor T. castaneum population densities in storage facilities. However, trap catches may depend on several intrin...
Article
Full-text available
Animal courtship signals include many highly conspicuous traits and behaviors, and it is generally assumed that such signals must balance the benefits of attracting mates against some fitness costs. However, few studies have assessed the multiple costs potentially incurred by any one courtship signal, so we have limited understanding of the relativ...
Article
Few studies have examined how female premating choice correlates with the outcome of copulatory and post-copulatory processes. It has been shown that polyandrous Tribolium castaneum females discriminate among males before mating based on olfactory cues, and also exert cryptic choice during mating through several mechanisms. This study tested whethe...
Article
Full-text available
Animal courtship signals include many highly conspicuous traits and behaviors, and it is generally assumed that such signals must balance the benefits of attracting mates against some fitness costs. However, few studies have assessed the multiple costs potentially incurred by any one courtship signal, so we have limited understanding of the relativ...
Article
Full-text available
Resource allocation between somatic and reproductive structures has important fitness consequences for individuals, and optimal trade-offs are expected to depend not only on mating system differences among species but also on levels of resource stress within species. We tested the prediction that polyandry (associated with increased sperm competiti...
Article
Although female mate choice and male sperm competition have separately attracted much attention, few studies have addressed how precopulatory and postcopulatory episodes of sexual selection might interact to drive the evolution of male traits. In Photinus fireflies, females preferentially respond to males based on their bioluminescent courtship sig...
Article
Full-text available
A comprehensive understanding of sexual selection requires knowledge of the traits and mechanisms responsible for increasing a male’s paternity share (proportion of progeny sired) relative to that of other males mating with the same female. In this study we manipulated by starvation the expression of traits that might influence male paternity share...