Impacts of moonlight on fish reproduction

Mar Genomics. 2014 Apr;14:59-66. doi: 10.1016/j.margen.2013.11.007. Epub 2014 Jan 4.


The waxing and waning cycle of the moon is repeated at approximately 1-month intervals, and concomitant changes occur in the levels of moonlight and cueing signals detected by organisms on the earth. In the goldlined spinefoot Siganus guttatus, a spawner lunar-synchronized around the first quarter moon, periodic changes in moonlight are used to cue gonadal development and gamete release. Rearing of mature fish under artificial constant full moon and new moon conditions during the spawning season leads to disruption or delay of synchronous spawning around the predicted moon phase. Melatonin, an endogenous transducer of the environmental light/dark cycle, increases in the blood and in the pineal gland around the new moon period and decreases around the full moon period. In synchrony with melatonin fluctuation, melatonin receptor(s) mRNA abundance is higher during the new moon period than during the full moon. The melatonin/melatonin receptor system is likely affected by moonlight. Measurements of the expression patterns of clock genes in neural tissues demonstrate that Cryptochrome (Cry1 and Cry3) and Period (Per2) fluctuate with lunar periodicity, the former peaking in the medial part of the brain around the first quarter moon period, and the latter peaking in the pineal gland around the full moon. Some clock genes may respond to periodic changes in moon phase and appear to be involved in the generation of lunar-related rhythmicity in lunar spawners. Thus, some fish use moonlight-related periodicities as reliable information for synchronizing the timing of reproductive events.

Keywords: Clock gene; Cryptochrome; Melatonin; Moonlight; Period; Spinefoot.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cryptochromes / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology*
  • Melatonin / blood
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Moon*
  • Perciformes / physiology*
  • Period Circadian Proteins / metabolism
  • Periodicity*
  • Pineal Gland / metabolism
  • Receptors, Melatonin / metabolism
  • Reproduction / physiology*


  • Cryptochromes
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • Receptors, Melatonin
  • Melatonin