Daily rhythms in plasma melatonin levels were compared in two ecologically diverse reptilian species under natural environmental conditions in autumn. The nocturnal, cold temperate-adapted tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus) had a melatonin rhythm of much lower amplitude than did the diurnal desert adapted sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa). Experiments in controlled laboratory environments showed that, although both species are capable of attaining a comparable melatonin peak (~750 pmol/l), the threshold temperature at which a significant daily rhythm occurs is ~15°C in S. punctatus compared with ~25°C in T. rugosa. This difference probably reflects the disparate thermoregulatory adaptations of the two species, S. punctatus favoring mean activity temperatures of 11.5°C and T. rugosa, 32.5°C. In ectotherms such as reptiles, therefore, species-typical thermoregulatory behavior may provide thermal cues that interact with photoperiod to provide the appropriate melatonin signal for the regulation of annual physiological cycles.
|Journal||American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology|
|Publication status||Published - May 1989|