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Essays Biochem. 2011 Jun 30;49(1):87-101. doi: 10.1042/BSE0490087.

Insect circadian clock outputs.

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Department of Neurobiology and Genetics, Theodor-Boveri Institute, University of Würzburg, Germany.


Insects display an impressive variety of daily rhythms, which are most evident in their behaviour. Circadian timekeeping systems that generate these daily rhythms of physiology and behaviour all involve three interacting elements: the timekeeper itself (i.e. the clock), inputs to the clock through which it entrains and otherwise responds to environmental cues such as light and temperature, and outputs from the clock through which it imposes daily rhythms on various physiological and behavioural parameters. In insects, as in other animals, cellular clocks are embodied in clock neurons capable of sustained autonomous circadian rhythmicity, and those clock neurons are organized into clock circuits. Drosophila flies spend their entire lives in small areas near the ground, and use their circadian brain clock to regulate daily rhythms of rest and activity, so as to organize their behaviour appropriately to the daily rhythms of their local environment. Migratory locusts and butterflies, on the other hand, spend substantial portions of their lives high up in the air migrating long distances (sometimes thousands of miles) and use their circadian brain clocks to provide time-compensation to their sun-compass navigational systems. Interestingly, however, there appear to be substantial similarities in the cellular and network mechanisms that underlie circadian outputs in all insects.

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