A circadian rhythm of population behavior in Gonyaulax polyedra

J Biol Rhythms. 1989 Summer;4(2):201-16.


Like other flagellates, Gonyaulax polyedra exhibits diurnal vertical migration and pattern formation. Shape and size of the aggregations depend on container type, light intensity, and cell density. In Petri dishes, cells form oval "swarms"; within these, cells move downward in the highly dense center and rise up at the periphery. We have investigated the daily rhythm of this swarming activity in Petri dishes illuminated from the side, using time-lapse video recordings. At night, a "lawn" of cells forms at the bottom of the dish toward the light source (independent of light intensity). Before dawn, cells rise toward the surface and aggregate in swarms. The daily vertical migration occurs independent of light direction and intensity. The diurnal swarms, however, form every day at the same location within the dish, at a distance from the light that depends on light intensity, indicating a self-selection of light intensity. In constant light and temperature and with negligible vertical nutrient differences, all aspects of the rhythm continue to oscillate for up to 3 weeks, when the rhythm of the population becomes desynchronized. Under cycles of bright white-dim red light (WR), cell entrain to WR 10:10 but free run in WR 8:8 and shorter cycles, showing relative coordination (von Holst, 1939) to the driving light cycle. They also entrain to the 24-hr multiple of WR 6:6. Under nonentrained conditions, swarming activity is still influenced by light changes, and in spite of the apparent free run, the phasing of the averaged activity varies systematically with different T-cycle frequencies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / radiation effects
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Color
  • Eukaryota / physiology*
  • Eukaryota / radiation effects
  • Light
  • Periodicity