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Chronobiol Int. 2012 Aug;29(7):857-67. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2012.699126.

Evidence for a plastic dual circadian rhythm in the oyster Crassostrea gigas.

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  • 1Université Bordeaux, UMR 5805, F-33120 Arcachon, France.

Abstract

Although a significant body of literature has been devoted to the chronobiology of aquatic animals, how biological rhythms function in molluscan bivalves has been poorly studied. The first objective of this study was to determine whether an endogenous circadian rhythm does exist in the oyster, Crassostrea gigas. The second objective was to characterize it in terms of robustness. To answer these questions, the valve activity of 15 oysters was continuously recorded for 2 mo in the laboratory under different entrainment and free-running regimes using a high-frequency noninvasive valvometer. The present work demonstrates the presence of a circadian rhythm in the oyster Crassostrea gigas. First, oysters were entrained by 12 L:12 D conditions. Then, free-running conditions (D:D and L:L) indicated that the most frequently observed period ranged from 20 to 28 h, the circadian range. That endogenous circadian rhythm was characterized as weak. Indeed, the period (τ) of the individual animals exhibited high plasticity in D:D and L:L, and the animals immediately followed a 4-h phase advance or delay. Additionally, C. gigas appeared as a dual organism: all oysters were nocturnal at the beginning of the laboratory experiment (January), whereas they were diurnal at the end (March). That shift was progressive. Comparison with a full-year in situ record showed the same behavioral duality as observed in the laboratory: the animals were nocturnal in autumn-winter and diurnal in spring-summer. The significant advantage of a plastic and dual circadian rhythm in terms of adaptability in a highly changing environment is discussed.

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