Activity patterns of rodents: The physiological ecology of biological rhythms

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To date, most research in the field of biological rhythms has been performed on nocturnal rodents under laboratory conditions. This research has made much progress in recent years. It is now time to investigate the adaptive value of the studied molecular mechanisms under natural conditions. Here we review relevant studies of rodent activity patterns. We also review a case study of temporal partitioning between spiny mice. We conclude that the response to environmental stimuli, using a system composed of a rigid master circadian oscillator and more flexible mechanisms such as peripheral oscillators with weak coupling, masking responses, and downstream switching mechanisms, is adaptive since it enables an animal to reset its activity phase without the cost of shifting the phase of the entire circadian system. We suggest that these mechanisms play a significant role in determining activity patterns under natural conditions, and are important for understanding the ecology and evolution of activity rhythms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-211
Number of pages19
JournalBiological Rhythm Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Acomys russatus
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Diurnal activity
  • Ecology
  • Masking
  • Temporal partitioning


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