Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 349–371 | Cite as

Plasticity of diel and circadian activity rhythms in fishes

  • Stephan G. Reebs


In many fish species, some individuals arediurnal while others are nocturnal. Sometimes,the same individual can be diurnal at first andthen switch to nocturnalism, or vice-versa.This review examines the factors that areassociated with such plasticity. It covers thebreakdown of activity rhythms during migration,spawning, and the parental phase; reversals ofactivity patterns during ontogeny or from oneseason to the next; effects of light intensity,temperature, predation risk, shoal size, foodavailability, and intraspecific competition.Case studies featuring goldfish (Carassiusauratus), golden shiner (Notemigonuscrysoleucas), lake chub (Couesiusplumbeus), salmonids, sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), and parentalsticklebacks and cichlids illustrate some ofthese influences. It is argued that mostspecies have a circadian system but that havingsuch a system does not necessarily imply strictdiurnalism or nocturnalism. Rigidity ofactivity phase seems more common in species,mostly marine, that display behavioral sleep,and for these animals the circadian clock canhelp maintain the integrity of the sleepperiod and ensure that its occurrence takes place atthat time of day to which the animal's sensoryequipment is not as well adapted. However, inother fishes, mostly from freshwater habitats,the circadian clock seems to be used mainly foranticipation of daily events such as thearrival of day, night, or food, and possiblyfor other abilities such as time-place learningand sun compass orientation, rather than forstrict control of activity phase. In thesespecies, various considerations relating toforaging success and predation risk maydetermine whether the animal is diurnal ornocturnal at any particular time and place.

activity patterns circadian daily diel rhythms sleep 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephan G. Reebs
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de BiologieUniversité de MonctonMoncton, NBCanada

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