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Chronobiol Int. 2003 Nov;20(6):901-19.

Adaptive significance of circadian clocks.

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Chronobiology Laboratory, Evolutionary and Organismal Biology Unit, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Jakkur, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.


Circadian clocks are ubiquitous and are found in organisms ranging from bacteria to mammals. This ubiquity of occurrence implies adaptive significance, but to date there has been no rigorous empirical evidence to support this. It is believed that an organism possessing circadian clocks gains fitness advantage in two ways: (i) by synchronizing its behavioral and physiological processes to cyclic environmental factors (extrinsic adaptive value); (ii) by coordinating its internal metabolic processes (intrinsic adaptive value). There is preliminary circumstantial evidence to support both. Several studies using organisms living in constant environments have shown that these organisms possess functional circadian clocks, suggesting that circadian clocks may have some intrinsic adaptive value. Studies to assess the adaptive value of circadian clocks in periodic environments suggest that organisms may have a fitness advantage in those periodic environments, which closely match their own intrinsic periodicity. Furthermore, evidence from organisms living in the wild, selection studies, and studies on latitudinal clines suggest that circadian clocks may have an extrinsic adaptive value as well. In this paper, I have presented several hypotheses for the emergence of circadian clocks and have reviewed some major empirical studies suggesting adaptive significance of circadian clocks.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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