Circadian Organization in Lizards: Perception, Translation, and Transduction of Photic and Thermal Information

  • Herbert Underwood
Conference paper
Part of the Proceedings in Life Sciences book series (LIFE SCIENCES)


All organisms show significant daily fluctuations in a host of biochemical, physiological, and behavioral parameters. The term “circadian” (circa, about; dies, a day) has been applied to those daily rhythms which will persist under constant conditions. Circadian rhythms, therefore, are overt expressions of an internal biological clock. Circadian rhythms are ubiquitous among eucaryotic organisms and undoubtedly confer significant selective advantages since they allow an organism not only to coordinate internal events but to coordinate internal events with events in the external world. It has been speculated that the selection pressure which led to the evolution of circadian rhythmicity was the daily shower of radiation from the sun (Paietta 1982). Biochemical events which were particularly sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet irradiation were confined to the dark phase of the daily light-dark cycle. Consequently, a partitioning of the cell’s metabolism occurred with at least some biochemical pathways operating during the night and some during the day. With the evolution of multicellular organisms, the control of the organism’s multiple rhythms became more centralized. Among vertebrates, for example, the pineal organ and the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus have been identified as major circadian pacemakers. Concomitant with the evolution of discrete centralized pacemakers, the coordination and phasing of the myriad overt circadian rhythms in different cells and tissues became subserved by the two classical communication systems; that is, nerves and hormones. The coupling of the clock to the photic environment has undoubtedly also undergone a change from a direct photosensitivity toward the involvement of more specialized photoreceptors, such as the eyes. Interestingly, however, a “direct” photosensitivity may have been retained by at least some of the pacemaking areas involved in circadian organization (i.e., submammalian pineal).


Circadian Rhythm Circadian Clock Pineal Gland Melatonin Level Circadian System 
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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1988

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  • Herbert Underwood

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