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Proc Biol Sci. 2013 Jan 7;280(1750):20122363. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2363.

Rain reverses diel activity rhythms in an estuarine teleost.

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  • 1School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia.


Activity rhythms are ubiquitous in nature, and generally synchronized with the day-night cycle. Several taxa have been shown to switch between nocturnal and diurnal activity in response to environmental variability, and these relatively uncommon switches provide a basis for greater understanding of the mechanisms and adaptive significance of circadian (approx. 24 h) rhythms. Plasticity of activity rhythms has been identified in association with a variety of factors, from changes in predation pressure to an altered nutritional or social status. Here, we report a switch in activity rhythm that is associated with rainfall. Outside periods of rain, the estuarine-associated teleost Acanthopagrus australis was most active and in shallower depths during the day, but this activity and depth pattern was reversed in the days following rain, with diurnality restored as estuarine conductivity and turbidity levels returned to pre-rain levels. Although representing the first example of a rain-induced reversal of activity rhythm in an aquatic animal of which we are aware, our results are consistent with established models on the trade-offs between predation risk and foraging efficiency.

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