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Dominoni, D. M., Helm, B., Lehmann, M., Dowse, H. B., & Partecke, J. (2013). Clocks for the city: circadian differences between forest and city songbirds. Proc Biol Sci, 280(1763), 20130593.
Abstract: To keep pace with progressing urbanization organisms must cope with extensive habitat change. Anthropogenic light and noise have modified differences between day and night, and may thereby interfere with circadian clocks. Urbanized species, such as birds, are known to advance their activity to early morning and night hours. We hypothesized that such modified activity patterns are reflected by properties of the endogenous circadian clock. Using automatic radio-telemetry, we tested this idea by comparing activity patterns of free-living forest and city European blackbirds (Turdus merula). We then recaptured the same individuals and recorded their activity under constant conditions. City birds started their activity earlier and had faster but less robust circadian oscillation of locomotor activity than forest conspecifics. Circadian period length predicted start of activity in the field, and this relationship was mainly explained by fast-paced and early-rising city birds. Although based on only two populations, our findings point to links between city life, chronotype and circadian phenotype in songbirds, and potentially in other organisms that colonize urban habitats, and highlight that urban environments can significantly modify biologically important rhythms in wild organisms.