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Circadian rhythms of locomotor activity in Ansell's mole-rat: are mole-rat's clocks ticking?


  • Editor: Gunther Zupanc

M. K. Oosthuizen, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Mammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0002, South Africa.


Circadian rhythms of locomotor activity have been investigated in several African mole-rat species. Even though mole-rats spend most of their lives in underground burrows devoid of light, studies have shown that they do possess circadian rhythms to some extent. We investigated the circadian rhythms of locomotor activity in 11 male Ansell's mole-rats Fukomys anselli from Zambia. In order to determine whether these animals can entrain to light and have endogenous rhythms, they were subjected to different light regimes: first, 12 h light/12 h dark, followed by constant darkness, then returned to 12 h light/12 h dark, which was later inversed to 12 h dark/12 h light. Only two individuals displayed arrhythmic activity patterns whereas the other nine (81.8%) exhibited entrainment of their activity to the light regimes. Locomotory activity of Ansell's mole-rat was predominantly during the dark phase in all light regimes. During constant darkness (DD), only five individuals (45.5%) displayed very weak circadian rhythms that free ran but became more indistinct towards the end of the cycle. Under the second LD light cycle, 90.1% of the animals were active during the night phase of the cycle and when placed under an inverse light cycle, seven individuals still displayed activity predominantly during the dark phase. In conclusion, these results suggest that Ansell's mole-rat does have a weak circadian clock and is able to perceive light and entrain to light cycles.