Socially synchronized circadian oscillators

Guy Bloch, Erik D. Herzog, Joel D. Levine, William J. Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Daily rhythms of physiology and behaviour are governed by an endogenous timekeeping mechanism (a circadian 'clock'). The alternation of environmental light and darkness synchronizes (entrains) these rhythms to the natural day-night cycle, and underlying mechanisms have been investigated using singly housed animals in the laboratory. But, most species ordinarily would not live out their lives in such seclusion; in their natural habitats, they interact with other individuals, and some live in colonies with highly developed social structures requiring temporal synchronization. Social cues may thus be critical to the adaptive function of the circadian system, but elucidating their role and the responsible mechanisms has proven elusive. Here, we highlight three model systems that are now being applied to understanding the biology of socially synchronized circadian oscillators: the fruitfly, with its powerful array of molecular genetic tools; the honeybee, with its complex natural society and clear division of labour; and, at a different level of biological organization, the rodent suprachiasmatic nucleus, site of the brain's circadian clock, with its network of mutually coupled single-cell oscillators. Analyses at the 'group' level of circadian organization will likely generate a more complex, but ultimately more comprehensive, view of clocks and rhythms and their contribution to fitness in nature.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number20130035
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1765
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Coupling
  • Drosophila
  • Entrainment
  • Honeybee
  • Social synchronization
  • Suprachiasmatic nucleus


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