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Biol Lett. 2008 Jun 23;4(3):253-5. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0066.

Golden hamsters are nocturnal in captivity but diurnal in nature.

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, Martin-Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Domplatz 4, 06108 Halle (Saale), Germany.


Daily activity rhythms are nearly universal among animals and their specific pattern is an adaptation of each species to its ecological niche. Owing to the extremely consistent nocturnal patterns of activity shown by golden hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus) in the laboratory, this species is a prime model for studying the mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms. In contrast to laboratory data, we discovered that female hamsters in the wild were almost exclusively diurnal. These results raise many questions about the ecological variables that shape the activity patterns in golden hamsters and the differences between laboratory and field results.

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