Circadian rhythms of melatonin and sex steroids in a nocturnal bird, Indian spotted owlet Athene brama during reproductively active and inactive phases

Guchhait, P.; Haldar, C.

Biological Rhythm Research 30(5): 508-516


ISSN/ISBN: 0929-1016
DOI: 10.1076/brhm.30.5.508.1400
Accession: 010324185

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The epiphyseal neurohormone melatonin (MEL) exhibits circadian cyclicity, as noted extensively in diurnal vertebrates although very little information is available regarding nocturnal species. We have studied the MEL rhythmicity with 24-hour periodicity in a tropical nocturnal bird, Indian spotted owlet Athene brama, which possesses a well-developed pineal organ. We performed our study during two crucial reproductive phases (active and inactive), when the pineal gland activity in owlet exists in inverse states, i.e., inactive and active respectively. Independent of sex, the circadian rhythm of plasma MEL in owlets showed a two-peak cyclicity with a smaller peak at around 1400 h and the higher one at about 0200 h, while the lowest value was found at 1000 h. The night (0200 h) peak activity of plasma MEL in owlet has a resemblance with the earlier findings in diurnal birds and strongly suggests that independent of species habit the peak activity of MEL is invariably dark dependent. However, the daytime peak of MEL may be due to the daytime hiding nature of this nocturnal bird. Interestingly, it was also noted that the hours of peak activity of MEL (1400 and 0200 h) were the same during both of the reproductive phases, though the environmental day length was longer and ambient temperature was higher during the reproductively inactive phase. During daytime these birds hide in a dark burrow where, in general, the intensities of light and temperature are less, and the amplitude of variations of these factors is not prominent. Hence, the seasonal variations in these oscillatory components may not have affected the entrainment of the owlet pineal oscillator, which regulates the daily MEL rhythm in a similar pattern during both the studied phases. On the other hand, a single circadian peak (around 1000 h) circadian cyclicity of gonadal steroids (i.e., testosterone in the male and estradiol and progesterone in the female) showed an inverse relationship with plasma MEL. Possibly, MEL regulates the daily steroidogenic status in owlets by an inhibitory influence.