Biological Rhythms

  • Anjali Aggarwal
  • Ramesh Upadhyay


A biological rhythm is a cyclical change in the biological or chemical function of body. The biological rhythms are endogenously controlled by self-contained circadian clocks. The daily alternation of light and dark is the main regulatory factor of the pineal hormone melatonin. Alterations in long-term lighting conditions during the year result in metabolic and behavioural changes in most living beings. The suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) in the hypothalamus are regarded as the anatomical loci of the circadian pacemaker. The most important synchronising trigger of circadian rhythm is environmental light/dark (LD) cycle. The circadian pacemaker in the mammalian SCN consists of a double complex of circadian genes (Per1/Cry1 and Per2/Cry2), which is able to maintain the endogenous rhythm. Melatonin has the ability to entrain biological rhythms and has important effects on biological function like reproduction of many mammals and livestock. The daily rhythmicity of melatonin is considered to be a very reliable phase marker of the endogenous timing system. The results on the patterns of cortisol levels in livestock particularly in ruminants are inconsistent; the levels have been observed to fluctuate episodically, or peaks and troughs have been found at varying times of the day depending on the physiological status and conditions. Increased glucocorticoid secretion at the circadian peak depends on increased hypothalamic–pituitary activity (HPA). Leptin is also a major regulator of neuroendocrine function and has an overall inhibitory effect on HPA activity and suppress the appetite-stimulating effects of glucocorticoid. Leptin secretion is pulsatile but leptin pulses are irregular in cattle. Chronobiologically, to maximise nutrient efficiency and optimise health, nutrient supply to reticulorumen, splanchnic and peripheral tissues needs to be synchronised with endogenous rhythms in hormone production and nutrient metabolism. The circadian system or oscillator coordinates the metabolic and hormonal changes needed to initiate and sustain milk synthesis or lactation. The animal or cow’s capacity to produce milk and cope with metabolic stresses in early lactation is related to animal’s ability to set circadian rhythms in order particularly during the transition period or early lactation. Circadian variations are also observed in many other biological functions like reactive oxygen species (ROS), defence systems, thermoregu­lation, the cardiovascular system and other functions in humans and domestic animals.


Circadian Rhythm Circadian Clock Pineal Gland Biological Rhythm Circadian Oscillator 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer India 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anjali Aggarwal
    • 1
  • Ramesh Upadhyay
    • 1
  1. 1.Dairy Cattle Physiology DivisionNational Dairy Research InstituteKarnalIndia

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