Environmental entrainment demonstrates natural circadian rhythmicity in the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis

Ann M. Tarrant, Rebecca R. Helm, Oren Levy, Hanny E. Rivera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Considerable advances in chronobiology have been made through controlled laboratory studies, but distinct temporal rhythms can emerge under natural environmental conditions. Lab-reared Nematostella vectensis sea anemones exhibit circadian behavioral and physiological rhythms. Given that these anemones inhabit shallow estuarine environments subject to tidal inputs, it was unclear whether circadian rhythmicity would persist following entrainment in natural conditions, or whether circatidal periodicity would predominate. Nematostella were conditioned within a marsh environment, where they experienced strong daily temperature cycles as well as brief tidal flooding around the full and new moons. Upon retrieval, anemones exhibited strong circadian (∼24 h) activity rhythms under a light–dark cycle or continuous darkness, but reduced circadian rhythmicity under continuous light. However, some individuals in each light condition showed circadian rhythmicity, and a few individuals showed circatidal rhythmicity. Consistent with the behavioral studies, a large number of transcripts (1640) exhibited diurnal rhythmicity compared with very few (64) with semidiurnal rhythmicity. Diurnal transcripts included core circadian regulators, and 101 of 434 (23%) genes that were previously found to be upregulated by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Together, these behavioral and transcriptional studies show that circadian rhythmicity predominates and suggest that solar radiation drives physiological cycles in this sediment-dwelling subtidal animal.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjeb205393
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number21
StatePublished - 12 Nov 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.


  • Chronobiology
  • Circadian
  • Cnidarian
  • Entrainment
  • Subtidal
  • UV radiation


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