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Circadian organization in reindeer

These Arctic animals abandon their daily rhythms when it is dark all day or light all night.


The light/dark cycle of day and night synchronizes an internal ‘biological clock’ that governs daily rhythms in behaviour, but this form of regulation is denied to polar animals for most of the year. Here we demonstrate that the continuous lighting conditions of summer and of winter at high latitudes cause a loss in daily rhythmic activity in reindeer living far above the Arctic Circle. This seasonal absence of circadian rhythmicity may be a ubiquitous trait among resident polar vertebrates.

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Figure 1: Activity patterns in reindeer under polar light conditions.


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Correspondence to Karl-Arne Stokkan.

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van Oort, B., Tyler, N., Gerkema, M. et al. Circadian organization in reindeer. Nature 438, 1095–1096 (2005).

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