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Melatonin and the circadian rhythms of feeding and perch-hopping in the European starling,Sturnus vulgaris


The role of melatonin plasma titers in the control of free-running circadian rhythms was investigated in European starlings,Sturnus vulgaris, held in continuous dim light. Simultaneous recordings of plasma melatonin, perch-hopping and feeding activity revealed synchronous circadian variations in all three functions with high melatonin titers during resting and low titers during activity periods. Implanting birds with melatonin silastic capsules resulted in a 100-fold increase in plasma concentrations and an abolition of the endogenous melatonin rhythm. Feeding rhythms persisted during this treatment, although the activity time (α) was lengthened and the circadian period (τ) shortened. Similar changes were found in perchhopping activity, but in some birds, this activity was more or less suppressed. These data demonstrate that although melatonin plasma titers freerun synchronously with other circadian parameters, fluctuations in peripheral melatonin are not essential for the expression of circadian activity.

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Beldhuis, H.J.A., Dittami, J.P. & Gwinner, E. Melatonin and the circadian rhythms of feeding and perch-hopping in the European starling,Sturnus vulgaris . J. Comp. Physiol. 164, 7–14 (1988).

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  • Melatonin
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Feeding Activity
  • Circadian Variation
  • Simultaneous Recording