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Chronobiol Int. 1998 May;15(3):219-30.

Circadian rhythm of activity in Japanese quail in constant darkness: variability of clarity and possibility of selection.

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  • 1UMR 6552 Ethologie, Evolution, Ecologie, Rennes, France.


In conditions of constant darkness, interindividual variability in the clarity of circadian rhythmicity was observed in sexually immature young quail, with birds classified as more or less rhythmic or arrhythmic. The relative clarity of this circadian rhythm was observed on the actograms by measurement of the autocorrelation coefficient ratio over 12 cycles. Autocorrelation coefficients were calculated from sequential series of total activity over 12-minute periods. Crosses of selected phenotypes with different clarities of rhythmicity were conducted in order to study the possibility of selection of this characteristic. From a random population (N = 42, twice), pairs of the most rhythmic birds (3 families), and pairs of arrhythmic birds (4 families) were reared. Autocorrelation coefficient ratios of F1 birds from rhythmic families (N = 54) were greater than those of F1 birds (N = 48) from arrhythmic families (t-test, p < .0001). These ratios in offspring were significantly correlated with that of the mean parent of each clutch of siblings (N = 102, r = .35, p = .0003). This result was maintained in a second generation (F2) of birds, for which significant differences in expressed rhythmicity were observed. That is, autocorrelation coefficient ratios of F2 birds from two rhythmic families (N = 30) were greater than those of F2 birds from arrhythmic families (N = 20) (t-test, p = .039). Comparison of F2 outbred and inbred birds from rhythmic pairs showed greater values of autocorrelation coefficient ratios in the case of inbred birds (N = 16) than for outbred birds (N = 30; t-test, p = .036). There was no difference between outbred (N = 20) and inbred birds (N = 15) from arrhythmic pairs. Therefore, selection of a rhythmic strain seems possible, whereas crosses between two arrhythmic birds may also give rise to rhythmic birds. Comparisons between rhythmic birds of different families did not show differences in the free-running period of the circadian rhythm, which is true also for rhythmic birds bred from two arrhythmic parents. Therefore, our selection procedure did not seem to be based on the characteristics of the pacemaker itself, but rather on a downstream event. Although the parents were not selected on the basis of quantity of activity per cycle or on the duration of the active phase, significant differences among the offspring of different families were shown.

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