Annual rhythms that underlie phenology: Biological time-keeping meets environmental change

Barbara Helm, Rachel Ben-Shlomo, Michael J. Sheriff, Roelof A. Hut, Russell Foster, Brian M. Barnes, Davide Dominoni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20130016
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1765
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Circannual
  • Global change
  • Hibernation
  • Migration
  • Photoperiod
  • Urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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