A number of long day breeding rodents depend on seasonal changes in photoperiodic length to synchronize their breeding seasons with the appropriate time of the year. These relationships are particularly conspicuous in the Syrian hamster where day length is vitally important in determining periods of sexual activity and inactivity. The organ in the body whose activity is most closely attuned to the photoperiodic environment is the pineal gland. During periods of darkness the biochemical and secretory activity of the pineal is enhanced with the resultant production of antigonadotrophic principles which are strongly suppressive to reproductive physiology. In this manner, decreasing day lengths of the fall are involved with suppressing sexual capability in male and female hamsters. Throughout the winter months darkness (because of the shorter day lengths and the fact that hamsters remain underground in lightless burrows) holds the gonads in an atrophic condition and thereby prevents hamsters from breeding. As spring approaches the neuroendocrine reproductive axis becomes refractory to the inhibitory effects of darkness and the pineal gland and, as a consequence, the gonads recrudesce allowing the animals to successfully reproduce. The long days of the spring and summer serve to interrupt the refractory period so that when winter approaches shortening day lengths will again, by way of the pineal gland, induce gonadalinvolution. In this scheme both light and darkness are critically important in synchronizing the phases of the annual reproductive cycle of the hamster with the appropriate season of the year. Melatonin may be the pineal hormone which mediates the effects of darkness on reproductive physiology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis