PD Dr. Sabine Begall, Dr. Erich Pascal Malkemper
Circadian rhythms of subterranean mammals – the geomagnetic field (GMF) as a potential zeitgeber
The eusocial Ansell’s mole-rat (Fukomys anselli) lives underground in extended tunnel systems and has the remarkable ability to sense the geomagnetic field (GMF). The subterranean ecotope lacks typical environmental factors (e.g. daily changes of light-darkness or temperature) that its inhabitants could use as a zeitgeber. In this project, we will test the hypothesis that the circadian rhythm of subterranean mole-rats depends on daily fluctuations of the GMF, which can be suppressed by shielding and reintroduced by simulating such fluctuations. The entrainment to a non-photic zeitgeber like the GMF could be especially important for social animals: synchronization of the sleep-wake rhythm could influence for instance thermoregulation (huddling). Our findings would constitute first conclusive evidence for a magnetic zeitgeber in a mammal with great implications for research in both, chronobiology and magnetoreception.