Meeting Abstract

104.2  Sunday, Jan. 6  Circadian rhythms in free-living arctic ground squirrels. BARNES, B.M.*; WILLIAMS, C.T.; BUCK, C.L.; Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks; Univ. of Alaska Anchorage; Univ. of Alaska Anchorage

In indigenous arctic reindeer and ptarmigan, circadian rhythms are not expressed during the constant light of summer or constant dark of winter, and it has been hypothesized that a seasonal absence of circadian rhythms is common to all vertebrate residents of polar regions. Here we show that, while free-living arctic ground squirrels do not express circadian rhythms during the heterothermic and pre-emergent euthermic intervals of hibernation, they display entrained daily rhythms of body temperature (Tb) throughout their active season which includes six weeks of constant sun. In winter, ground squirrels are arrhythmic and regulate core body temperatures to within +/-0.2 C for up to 18 days during steady-state torpor. In spring, after use of torpor ends, male but not female ground squirrels, resume euthermic levels of Tb in their dark burrows but remain arrhythmic for up to 27 days. However, once activity on the surface begins, both sexes exhibit robust 24-h cycles of body temperature. We suggest that persistence of daily rhythms through the polar summer enables ground squirrels to minimize thermoregulatory costs. However, the environmental cues (zeitgebers) used to entrain rhythms during the constant light of the arctic summer in these semi-fossorial rodents are unknown.