Annual rhythms that underlie phenology: biological time-keeping meets environmental change.
Helm B., Ben-Shlomo R., Sheriff MJ., Hut RA., Foster R., Barnes BM., Dominoni D.
Seasonal recurrence of biological processes (phenology) and its relationship to environmental change is recognized as being of key scientific and public concern, but its current study largely overlooks the extent to which phenology is based on biological time-keeping mechanisms. We highlight the relevance of physiological and neurobiological regulation for organisms' responsiveness to environmental conditions. Focusing on avian and mammalian examples, we describe circannual rhythmicity of reproduction, migration and hibernation, and address responses of animals to photic and thermal conditions. Climate change and urbanization are used as urgent examples of anthropogenic influences that put biological timing systems under pressure. We furthermore propose that consideration of Homo sapiens as principally a 'seasonal animal' can inspire new perspectives for understanding medical and psychological problems.