, Volume 140, Issue 4–6, pp 219–228 | Cite as

Testing for associations between candidate genes for circadian rhythms and individual variation in sleep behaviour in blue tits

  • C. SteinmeyerEmail author
  • B. Kempenaers
  • J. C. Mueller


The regulation of sleep in animals is controlled by environmental factors, homeostatic mechanisms and endogenous circadian oscillators. The molecular mechanisms underlying such circadian oscillators have been described in detail and a variety of genes that are components of these molecular clocks have been reported. In addition to inter-specific variation in the temporal organization of sleep, there is significant intra-specific variation in different organisms. From numerous studies in humans it is known that polymorphisms in the regulatory clock genes are causing such variation but knowledge about associations between naturally occurring polymorphisms and sleep patterns in wild animals is scarce. In this study, we investigated the phenotypic sleep correlates of eleven previously described polymorphisms in seven candidate genes within a free-living blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus population. We detected associations between four single nucleotide polymorphisms and three of the nine tested sleep parameters representing temporal organization. Awakening time was associated with polymorphisms in AANAT and PERIOD2, morning latency with a polymorphism in CKIε and the duration of the longest sleep bout with a second polymorphism in AANAT. However, by a permutation procedure we showed that the number of significant results and the most significant association has a study-wide likelihood of 46.7 and 5.9 % respectively. Further replication studies are needed to evaluate the potential associations.


Genotype-phenotype association Cyanistes caeruleus Circadian rhythm Sleep Study-wide significance Clock genes 



We thank Alexander Girg for assistance with genotyping and Mihai Valcu for assistance with statistical analysis. We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript. This work was financially supported by the Max Planck Society.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary GeneticsMax-Planck-Institute for OrnithologySeewiesenGermany

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