1. We examined the relative changes in light intensity that initiate night-time locomotor activity changes in nymphs of the mayfly, Stenonema modestum (Heptageniidae). Tests were carried out in a laboratory stream to examine the hypothesis that nymphs increase their locomotion in response to the large and sustained reductions in relative light intensity that take place during twilight but not to short-term daytime light fluctuations or a minimum light intensity threshold. Ambient light intensity was reduced over a range of values representative of evening twilight. Light was reduced over the same range of intensities either continuously or in discrete intervals while at the same time nymph activity on unglazed tile substrata was video recorded.

2. Nymphs increased their locomotor activity during darkness in response to large, sustained relative light decreases, but not in response to short-term, interrupted periods of light decrease. Nymphs did not recognise darkness unless an adequate light stimulus, such as large and sustained relative decrease in light intensity, had taken place.

3. We show that nymphs perceive light change over time and respond only after a lengthy period of accumulation of light stimulus. The response is much lengthier than reported for other aquatic organisms and is highly adaptive to heterogeneous stream environments.


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Freshwater Biology



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Copyright © 2006, John Wiley and Sons


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Schloss, AL and JF Haney (2006). Clouds, shadows, or twilight? Mayfly nymphs recognise the difference, Freshwater Biology, 51:1079-1089, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.