Timing of puberty and synchronization of seasonal rhythms by simulated natural photoperiods in female Siberian hamsters

Matthew P. Butler, Justin J. Trumbull, Kevin W. Turner, Irving Zucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The timing of puberty is a critical life history trait of short-lived species; spring-born individuals mature rapidly and breed in the season of birth, whereas young born in midto late summer delay puberty until the next spring. The cues that govern the transition from rapid to delayed maturation in natural populations remain unknown. To identify ecologically relevant photoperiod cues that control timing of puberty, we monitored nine cohorts of female Siberian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) born every 2 wk from 4 wk before to 12 wk after the summer solstice in a simulated natural photoperiod (SNP). Hamsters born by the summer solstice underwent rapid somatic growth and achieved puberty that summer; among females born 2-4 wk after the solstice, some delayed puberty by many weeks, whereas others manifested early puberty. Hamsters born 6 or more weeks after the solstice generally delayed puberty until the following spring. The transition from accelerated to delayed pubertal development in the SNP occurred at day lengths that induce early puberty when presented as static photoperiods. Despite differences in timing of birth and timing of puberty, fall and subsequent spring seasonal events occurred at similar calendar dates in all cohorts. We found no evidence that prenatal photoperiod history influenced postnatal development of female hamsters. Considered together with a parallel study on males, the present findings point to sex differences in responsiveness to natural photoperiod variations. In both sexes, incrementally changing photoperiods exert a strong organizing effect on seasonal rhythms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R413-R420
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Critical day length
  • Phodopus sungorus
  • Seasonality
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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