JUN 20, 2017 6:14 AM PDT

An Internal Tidal Clock Tells This Isopod When it's Feeding Time

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

We’ve known for ages that animals have a good sense of time and can control their behavior depending on the time of day it is. Many times, this sense is attributed to something known as a circadian clock, which even humans seem to have. On the other hand, some animals also have something known as a circatidal (tidal) clock, which works in similar ways.

While these internal clocks are well-known and well-documented in humans, the way it works in various animal species is still a mystery, which is why scientists continue to study animals that exhibit these features.

A species of nocturnal isopod that goes by the scientific name of Scyphax ornatus appears to work around a tidal clock. Researchers from The University of Auckland in New Zealand say that they’ve successfully demonstrated this clock in the lab by manipulating light/dark and tidal patterns in a controlled environment. Their results appear on the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers manipulated conditions of light and tide in the lab, but these isopods' internal tidal clock wasn't tricked.

Image Credit: University of Auckland

These creatures are known for leaving their sandy burrows when nighttime rolls around so that they can go on feeding frenzies. Moreover, they try to stay away from the water as the tide rolls in, so they’ll climb up higher on the beach to avoid it; likewise, when the tide recedes, they will head back out.

Related: Setting bacteria's biological clock

“What we have found is that, in the laboratory, with light and tide cycles artificially manipulated, these animals follow the same rules of behavior as they would in the wild,” says study lead author Dr James Cheeseman. “So we can very accurately change the semilunar rhythm by changing the perceived length of the day and tidal cycles.

In the lab tests, even though the animals were ripped from their natural habitat and placed in the lab where the outside light conditions were completely invisible, they continued to respond to their internal tidal clocks despite the contradicting artificial lab conditions created by the researchers.

When the researchers deprived the animals of stimuli that would normally trigger their tidal clocks to kick in, the animals still followed their internal instincts to feed. This meant they were operating purely off of their internal clocks rather than watching for changes in light or tide conditions in the lab.

“That tells us their semilunar or fortnightly behavior continues to be regulated by the interaction of circatidal and circadian clocks even where there is either no external stimuli or they are in an environment with artificial light cycles or tidal cycles,” Dr Cheeseman continued.

What this means is, try as you must, you aren’t going to disturb an animal’s natural cycle with artificial means. They’re simply hard-wired to live their lives a certain way.

Source: The University of Auckland

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
FEB 19, 2021
Plants & Animals
Group of Migrating Gray Whales Makes a Puget Sound Pitstop
FEB 19, 2021
Group of Migrating Gray Whales Makes a Puget Sound Pitstop
Washington’s Puget Sound is famously home to resident and transient orca pods. However, during their yearly migrat ...
FEB 28, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
How a Slime Mold with no Brain Can Remember Things
FEB 28, 2021
How a Slime Mold with no Brain Can Remember Things
Our past experiences help us navigate future obstacles, and it seems that even organisms without a brain have that skill ...
APR 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Celebrating National Pet Day
APR 09, 2021
Celebrating National Pet Day
Sunday, April 11, is National Pet Day! From pandemic companions to viral videos, pets are a huge part of our lives. Even ...
MAY 02, 2021
Plants & Animals
In 10 Years, Brazilian Amazon Emitted More Carbon Than it Absorbed
MAY 02, 2021
In 10 Years, Brazilian Amazon Emitted More Carbon Than it Absorbed
New work in Nature Climate Change has determined that in the last decade, the Brazilian Amazon released over 20% more ca ...
MAY 21, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Oxygen Conditions Needed for Emergence of Complex Life Discovered
MAY 21, 2021
Oxygen Conditions Needed for Emergence of Complex Life Discovered
For some time, scientists have supported the ‘Oxygen Control Hypothesis’. The theory states that higher leve ...
JUN 04, 2021
Plants & Animals
What Elephant Trunks Teach Science about Suction
JUN 04, 2021
What Elephant Trunks Teach Science about Suction
How an elephant picks up a tortilla chip could inspire next-generation suction technology.
Loading Comments...