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Pronounced juvenile circadian core temperature rhythms exist in several strains of rats but not in rabbits


Torpor-like circadian variations of core temperature are well documented for suckling-age Zucker rat pups. To determine (1) whether this juvenile circadian rhythm is as strongly expressed in other rat strains, and (2) whether a similar rhythm is expressed in rabbit pups, we recorded core temperature and metabolic rate of artificially reared pups. Wistar, Brown Norway, and Long Evans pups were studied for 30 h under moderate cold loads (ambient temperature=28°C) when 9–11 days old, i.e. at the age and ambient temperature for which the rhythm has been most thoroughly characterized in Zucker rats. Chinchilla bastard rabbit pups were studied under similar conditions when they were 3–8 days old, the youngest age at which the rhythm can be easily detected in rats. Rat pups of each strain showed clear circadian rhythms with sharp decreases of core temperature and metabolic rate in subjective morning. Core temperature amplitudes were in the order Wistar < Brown Norway < Zucker < Long Evans strain. In contrast, the rabbit pups maintained stable high levels of core temperature and metabolic rate throughout the day. A torpor-like decrease of core temperature in the morning is thus not a pecularity of the Zucker rat strain but also occurs in other pigmented rat strains, whereas rabbit pups at a similar developmental stage do not show a circadian core temperature rhythm.

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body mass


metabolic rate


relative air humidity

T a :

ambient temperature

T c :

core temperture


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Correspondence to I. Schmidt.

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Communicated by H. Langer

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Nuesslein-Hildesheim, B., Imai-Matsumura, K., Döring, H. et al. Pronounced juvenile circadian core temperature rhythms exist in several strains of rats but not in rabbits. J Comp Physiol B 165, 13–17 (1995).

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Key words

  • Strain differences
  • Nursing behaviour
  • Developmental changes
  • Thermoregulation
  • Rat pups