Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 192, Issue 7, pp 701–714 | Cite as

Variability of diurnality in laboratory rodents

  • R. RefinettiEmail author
Original Paper


The locomotor activity rhythms of domestic mice, laboratory rats, Syrian hamsters, Siberian hamsters, Mongolian gerbils, degus, and Nile grass rats were compared. Running-wheel activity was monitored under a light–dark cycle with 12 h of light and 12 h of darkness per day. Nile grass rats were found to be reliably diurnal, whereas laboratory rats, Siberian hamsters, domestic mice, and Syrian hamsters were reliably nocturnal. Both diurnal and nocturnal subgroups were observed in Mongolian gerbils and degus. A downward gradient of diurnality was observed from Mongolian gerbils classified as diurnal, degus classified as diurnal, gerbils classified as nocturnal, and degus classified as nocturnal. Nocturnal degus remained nocturnal when tested with an infrared motion detector without running wheels. Thus, although the diurnal–nocturnal dichotomy could be applied to some of the species, it was not appropriate for others. The dichotomy may reflect researchers’ needs for systematization more than a natural distinction between species. Through mechanisms as yet poorly understood, the balance between entraining and masking processes seems to generate a gradient of temporal niches that runs from predominantly diurnal species to predominantly nocturnal species with many chronotypes in between, including species that exhibit wide intra-species gradients of temporal niche.


Circadian rhythm Diurnality Locomotor activity Arvicanthis niloticus Meriones unguiculatus Mesocricetus auratus Mus musculus Octodon degus Phodopus sungorus Rattus norvegicus 



Light–dark cycle


Standard deviation



The research reported here was partially supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH-066826 and National Science Foundation Grant IBN-0343917 to the author. Experiments were conducted in accordance with the regulations of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (U.S. National Research Council, 1996).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Circadian Rhythm LaboratoryUniversity of South CarolinaWalterboroUSA

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