Sociality has beneficial effects on fitness, and timing the activities of animals may be critical. Social cues could influence daily rhythmic activities via direct effects on the circadian clock or on processes that bypass it (masking), but these possibilities remain incompletely addressed. We investigated the effects of social cues on the circadian body temperature (Tb) rhythms in pairs of co-housed and isolated grass rats, Arvicanthis niloticus (a social species), in constant darkness (DD). Cohabitation did not induce synchronization of circadian Tb rhythms. However, socio-sexual history did affect circadian properties: accelerating the clock in sexually experienced males and females in DD and advancing rhythm phase in the females in a light-dark cycle. To address whether synchronization occurs at an ultradian scale, we analyzed Tb and activity rhythms in pairs of co-housed sisters or couples in DD. Regardless of pair type, co-housing doubled the percentage of time individuals were simultaneously active without increasing individual activity levels, suggesting that activity bouts were synchronized by redistribution over 24 h. Together, our laboratory findings show that social cues affect individual "time allocation" budgets via mechanisms at multiple levels of biological organization. We speculate that in natural settings these effects could be adaptive, especially for group-living animals.
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Nature Scientific Reports
Date of publication
Castillo-Ruiz, Alexandra; Indic, Premananda; and Schwartz, William J., "Time management in a co-housed social rodent species (Arvicanthis niloticus)" (2018). Electrical Engineering Faculty Publications and Presentations. Paper 13.