WASHINGTON, D.C. — If it takes you a while to recover from a few lost hours of sleep, be grateful you aren’t an orb weaver.
Three orb-weaving spiders — Allocyclosa bifurca, Cyclosa turbinata and Gasteracantha cancriformis — may have the shortest natural circadian rhythms discovered in an animal thus far, researchers reported November 12 at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting.
Most animals have natural body clocks that run closer to the 24-hour day-night cycle, plus or minus a couple hours, and light helps reset the body’s timing each day. But the three orb weavers’ body clocks average at about 17.4, 18.5 and 19 hours respectively. This means the crawlers must shift their cycle of activity and inactivity — the spider equivalent of wake and sleep cycles — by about five hours each day to keep up with the normal solar cycle.
“That’s like flying across more than five time zones, and experiencing that much jet lag each day in order to stay synchronized with the typical day-night cycle,” said Darrell Moore, a neurobiologist at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.
“Circadian clocks actually keep us from going into chaos,” he added. “Theoretically, [the spiders] should not exist.”
For most animals, internal clocks help them perform recurring daily activities, like eat, sleep and hunt, at the most appropriate time of…
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