The circadian system of reptiles: a multioscillatory and multiphotoreceptive system

Physiol Behav. 2001 Mar;72(4):461-71. doi: 10.1016/s0031-9384(00)00423-6.


Many parameters exhibited by organisms show daily fluctuations that may persist when the organisms are held in constant environmental conditions. Rhythms that persist in constant conditions with a period close to 24 h are called circadian. Although nowadays most research in this field is focused on the molecular and genetic aspects--and therefore mostly on two animal models (Drosophila and mouse)--the study of alternative animal models still represent a useful approach to understanding how the vertebrate circadian system is organized, and how this fascinating time-keeping system has changed throughout the evolution of vertebrates. The present paper summarizes the current knowledge of the circadian organization of Reptiles. The circadian organization of reptiles is multioscillatory in nature. The retinas, the pineal, and the parietal eye (and, possibly, the suprachiasmatic nuclei of the hypothalamus, SCN) contain circadian clocks. Of particular interest is the observation that the role these structures play in the circadian organization varies considerably among species and within the same species in different seasons. Another remarkable feature of this class is the redundancy of circadian photoreceptors: retinas of the lateral eyes, pineal, parietal eye, and the brain all contain photoreceptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Eye / cytology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Lizards
  • Melatonin / physiology
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Pineal Gland / cytology
  • Pineal Gland / physiology
  • Reptiles / physiology*
  • Retina / cytology
  • Retina / physiology
  • Seasons
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / physiology
  • Temperature


  • Melatonin