Seasonality in a temperate zone bird can be entrained by near equatorial photoperiods

Dawson, Alistair. 2007 Seasonality in a temperate zone bird can be entrained by near equatorial photoperiods. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274 (1610). 721-725.

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Birds use photoperiod to control the time of breeding and moult. However, it is unclear whether responses are dependent on absolute photoperiod, the direction and rate of change in photoperiod, or if photoperiod entrains a circannual clock. If starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are kept on a constant photoperiod of 12h light:12h darkness per day (12L:12D), then they can show repeated cycles of gonadal maturation, regression and moult, which is evidence for a circannual clock. In this study, starlings kept on constant 11.5L:12.5D for 4 years or 12.5L:11.5D for 3 years showed no circannual cycles in gonadal maturation or moult. So, if there is a circannual clock, it is overridden by a modest deviation in photoperiod from 12L:12D. The responses to 11.5L:12.5D and 12.5L:11.5D were very different, the former perceived as a short photoperiod (birds were photosensitive for most of the time) and the latter as a long photoperiod (birds remained permanently photorefractory). Starlings were then kept on a schedule which ranged from 11.5L:12.5D in mid-winter to 12.5L:11.5D in mid-summer (simulating the annual cycle at 9°N) for 3 years. These birds entrained precisely to calendar time and changes in testicular size and moult were similar to those of birds under a simulated cycle at 52°N. These data show that birds are very sensitive to changes in photoperiod but that they do not simply respond to absolute photoperiod nor can they rely on a circannual clock. Instead, birds appear to respond to the shape of the annual change in photoperiod. This proximate control could operate from near equatorial latitudes and would account for similar seasonal timing in individuals of a species over a wide range of latitudes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Programmes pre-2009 publications > Biodiversity
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Watt
ISSN: 0962-8452
Additional Keywords: bird, starling, photoperiodism, circannual rhythms, latitude
NORA Subject Terms: Zoology
Biology and Microbiology
Date made live: 24 Jan 2008 13:01 +0 (UTC)

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