Annual rhythms that underlie phenology: Biological time-keeping meets environmental change

Barbara Helm, Rachel Ben-Shlomo, Michael J. Sheriff, Roelof A. Hut, Russell Foster, Brian M. Barnes, Davide Dominoni

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


Seasonal recurrence of biological processes (phenology) and its relationship to environmental change is recognized as being of key scientific and public concern, but its current study largely overlooks the extent to which phenology is based on biological time-keeping mechanisms. We highlight the relevance of physiological and neurobiological regulation for organisms' responsiveness to environmental conditions. Focusing on avian and mammalian examples, we describe circannual rhythmicity of reproduction, migration and hibernation, and address responses of animals to photic and thermal conditions. Climate change and urbanization are used as urgent examples of anthropogenic influences that put biological timing systems under pressure.We furthermore propose that consideration of Homo sapiens as principally a 'seasonal animal' can inspire new perspectives for understanding medical and psychological problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20130016
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1765
StatePublished - Aug 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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