Free Access
Reprod. Nutr. Dev.
Volume 44, Number 4, July-August 2004
Page(s) 341 - 352
Reprod. Nutr. Dev. 44 (2004) 341-352
DOI: 10.1051/rnd:2004039

Regulation of seasonality in the migratory male blackheaded bunting (Emberiza melanocephala)

Manju Misra, Sangeeta Rani, Sudhi Singh and Vinod Kumar

Department of Zoology, University of Lucknow, Lucknow 226 007, India

(Received 20 November 2003; accepted 6 April 2004)

Abstract - The present study was carried out on a Palearctic-Indian migratory species, the blackheaded bunting (Emberiza melanocephala), to understand the importance of photoperiodism and circannual rhythms in determining seasonality in changes in body mass and testis size in birds. An initial experiment determined the effects of duration and intensity of light on photoperiodic induction. The birds were exposed to different photoperiods (hours of light:hours of darkness; 11.5L:12.5D, 12L:12D, 12.5L:11.5D and 13L:11D) at the same (~ 450 lux) light intensity, and to 13L:11D at different light intensities (50-, 100-, 400-, 800- and 1000-lux). The induction and subsequent regression of photoperiodic responses were dependent upon duration and intensity of the light period until these reached threshold. A second experiment investigated if an endogenous seasonal rhythm underlies photoperiodism in buntings. Birds maintained since February on a 8L:16D photoperiod (a non-inductive short day length invariably used to ensure photosensitivity in photoperiodic species) were subjected periodically to 16L:8D (a long day length), one group every month from mid-March to mid-August. The magnitude of long day response in body mass and testes decreased as the duration of the short days progressed, but testicular response was restored in birds that were exposed to long days in July and August. The birds exposed simultaneously to short, long, and natural day lengths for 32 weeks underwent an induction-regression cycle under long days and natural day lengths, but not under short days in which a decrease in body mass occurred after about 20 weeks. The last experiment examined the importance of latitudinal migration on photoperiodism, by comparing the response to long days of three groups which included birds from populations those were held in the outdoor aviary for 1 or 2 years at 27° N and those immediately arrived from their breeding grounds (~ 40° N). There was no difference in the photoperiodic induction among the three groups, indicating that neither experience to changing photoperiods during a migratory journey, nor to long photoperiods at breeding grounds, were critical for a subsequent response (initiation-termination-reinitiation) cycle. Taken together, these findings suggest that (1) the blackheaded bunting has its own endogenous timing program, which is regulated by the photoperiod, and (2) the photoperiodic programs of bunting are flexible enough to accommodate variations in the amplitude of environmental cycles. Thus, it appears that photoperiodism has evolved independently of the evolution of migration in this species.

Key words: bunting / intensity / photoperiod / photoperiodic response system / photosensitivity / seasonality

Corresponding author: Vinod Kumar

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2004