Jackson Estuarine Laboratory


Adult American horseshoe crabs, Limulus polyphemus, possess endogenous circadian and circatidal clocks controlling visual sensitivity and locomotion, respectively. The goal of this study was to determine the types of activity rhythms expressed by juvenile horseshoe crabs (n = 24) when exposed to a 14:10 light/dark cycle (LD) for 10 days, followed by 10 days of constant darkness (DD). Horseshoe crab activity was recorded with a digital time-lapse video system that used an infrared-sensitive camera so animals could be monitored at night. In LD, 15 animals expressed daily patterns of activity, 6 displayed a circatidal pattern, and the remaining 3 were arrhythmic. Of the 15 animals with daily patterns of locomotion, 7 had a significant preference (P < 0.05) for diurnal activity and 3 for nocturnal activity; the remainder did not express a significant preference for day or night activity. In DD, 13 horseshoe crabs expressed circatidal rhythms and 8 maintained a pattern of about 24 h. Although these results suggest the presence of a circadian clock influencing circatidal patterns of locomotion, these apparent circadian rhythms may actually represent the expression of just one of the two bouts of activity driven by the putative circalunidian clocks that control their tidal rhythms. Overall, these results indicate that, like adults, juvenile horseshoe crabs express both daily and tidal patterns of activity and that at least one, and maybe both, of these patterns is driven by endogenous clocks.


Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Biological Sciences

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The Biological Bulletin


University of Chicago Press

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