Jackson Estuarine Laboratory


Daily rhythms of activity driven by circadian clocks are expressed by many organisms, including molluscs. We initiated this study, with the nudibranch Melibe leonina, with four goals in mind: (1) determine which behaviors are expressed with a daily rhythm; (2) investigate which of these rhythmic behaviors are controlled by a circadian clock; (3) determine if a circadian clock is associated with the eyes or optic ganglia of Melibe, as it is in several other gastropods; and (4) test the hypothesis that Melibe can use extraocular photoreceptors to synchronize its daily rhythms to natural light-dark cycles. To address these goals, we analyzed the behavior of 55 animals exposed to either artificial or natural light-dark cycles, followed by constant darkness. We also repeated this experiment using 10 animals that had their eyes removed. Individuals did not express daily rhythms of feeding, but they swam and crawled more at night. This pattern of locomotion persisted in constant darkness, indicating the presence of a circadian clock. Eyeless animals also expressed a daily rhythm of locomotion, with more locomotion at night. The fact that eyeless animals synchronized their locomotion to the light-dark cycle suggests that they can detect light using extraocular photoreceptors. However, in constant darkness, these rhythms deteriorated, suggesting that the clock neurons that influence locomotion may be located in, or near, the eyes. Thus, locomotion in Melibe appears to be influenced by both ocular and extraocular photoreceptors, although the former appear to have a greater influence on the expression of circadian rhythms.


Jackson Estuarine Laboratory, Biological Sciences

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The Biological Bulletin


University of Chicago Press

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