The circadian wheel-running activity rhythms of individual hamster pups raised and maintained in constant dim light were measured beginning at 18 days of age. Records of the postweaning free-running activity rhythm were used to determine the phase of a pup’s rhythm on the day of weaning and its phase relationship to its mother’s rhythm. Although raised in constant light, the rhythms of pups within a litter were approximately synchronous and in phase with their mother’s activity rhythm. These results indicate that the circadian oscillator underlying the activity rhythm is functional prior to weaning and is entrained by some as yet unidentified aspect of maternal rhythmicity. Furthermore, the results suggest that even in the absence of external entraining cycles, behavioral rhythms, and perhaps physiologic rhythms as well, of a mother and her offspring are normally synchronized.

Author notes

This research was supported by NIH grant 5R01 HD-01182 to R.A.G. and by NIH National Research Service award 5F32 HD-05916 from NICHD to F.C.D.