An ability to predict forthcoming changes in environmental conditions and get prepared for them in advance is crucial for the survival and reproduction of organisms living in a seasonally changing environment. We have studied the possible involvement of circadian oscillator(s) in the photoperiodic timer controlling seasonal responses by tracing Drosophila montana females' diapause induction in constant darkness and in a classical Nanda-Hamner experiment. Nearly all females developed ovaries in continuous darkness, which shows the direct development to be their default developmental pathway in the absence of photoperiods. In Nanda-Hamner experiment the females' diapause incidence was close to zero in light:dark cycle 12:4 (photoperiod 16 h) and increased to nearly 100% in 12:8 and 12:12 (photoperiods 20 and 24 h). In longer photoperiods (28-72 h) the females' diapause percentages decreased gradually along with an increase in the length of the dark period, showing no peaks of high diapause incidence in the multiples of 24h. These findings suggest that the photoperiodic timer of D. montana is based on heavily damping circadian oscillator(s) or that it lacks strong oscillators. Damping of the photoperiodic timer under prolonged nights and constant darkness fits well with our earlier finding that these flies lose their locomotor activity rhythm in constant darkness, and suggests that the mechanisms underlying females' photoperiodic diapause response and their free-running locomotor activity rhythm may be partly based on same oscillators.
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