“Fluctuations in hormones and behavior are part of a delicate biological orchestra that is crucial to life. Many animals depend on seasonal changes in their biology to survive and our findings are a crucial part of the puzzle to understand the underlying processes.” -Simone Meddle, Professor at the Edinburg university
Scientists at the University of Edinburg, have discovered animals prepare themselves for seasonal changes. It is a well-known fact that nature provides each of us living being a different way to withstand the harsh climatic conditions. Animals become dormant, that is some of them go into hibernation, while the others grow out fur coats to keep themselves warm. Scientists only studied she’s, but other mammals, birds and other categories of animals adapt the same way.
Sheep’s endocrine gland is attached to their pituitary gland, which is a part of the brain. It’s stated that the brain responds to the short and long days which take place during the winters and the summers. The brain also governs their breeding cycles, which in turn results in different birth seasons for different animals.
Within the pituitary gland, one of the two vital mechanisms gets activated depending on the length of the day. For example, When the nights are longer, the brain prepares the particular living being for the coming season. Thus the affected natural processes are breeding and feeding.
On the flip side, when the days get longer, and the night gets shorter, the brain processes the climate change as summer. Like the winter nights, released hormones, affect the biological processes like breeding and feeding.
What is BMAL2?
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The study revealed that the dominated hormones are a circadian gene known as BMAL2, found in quite a few animals. Brain-Muscle-Arnt-Like-protein 2, also known as Arnt4 is a basic Helix-Loop-Helix-Per-Arnt-Sim which has been recently identified. The utilized gene is useful for the duplication of an ancestral BMAL gene.
Does it happen daily?
Yes, this hormonal switch does happen daily as well, it is stronger when the seasons are changing. Hungry, tired, and even fertile animals, and humans, are due to these hormones. These hormones are an integral part of life and alter over the course of the day. This rhythm is the circadian rhythm.
Why should we know this?
When one hears the phrase ‘Animals preparing for winter’, the first thing that comes to our mind is:
1. Their behavior
2. Collecting resources, like food
3. Finding a place to hibernate
4. Grouping together.
But, the greatest part of this preparation is the biological changes that take place. Prevention of sickness and premature death in animals is important. The animals also have to prepare for seasonal changes, and a piece of knowledge like this is useful.
“The genetic ‘flip-flop’ timer we have identified is key to functions such as fertility as sheep transition between winter and summer. We speculate that this genetic timer is likely to be fundamental to yearly changes in many species.- Professor Andrew Loudon, the University of Manchester