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Photoperiodicity is the physiological reaction of organisms to the length of day or night. It occurs in plants and animals.

Contents

In plants

Many flowering plants use a photoreceptor protein, such as phytochrome or cryptochrome, to sense seasonal changes in night length, or photoperiod, which they take as signals to flower. In a further subdivision, obligate photoperiodic plants absolutely require a long or short enough night before flowering, whereas facultative photoperiodic plants are more likely to flower under the appropriate light conditions, but will eventually flower regardless of night length.

Photoperiodic flowering plants are classified as long-day plants or short-day plants, though the regulatory mechanism is actually governed by hours of darkness, not the length of the day.

Modern biologists believe that it is the coincidence of the active forms of phytochrome or cryptochrome, created by light during the daytime, with the rhythms of the circadian clock that allows plants to measure the length of the night. Other than flowering, photoperiodism in plants includes the growth of stems or roots during certain seasons, or the loss of leaves.

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Long-day plants

A long-day plant requires fewer than a certain number of hours of darkness in each 24-hour period to induce flowering. These plants typically flower in the northern hemisphere during late spring or early summer as days are getting longer. In the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year is on or about 21 June (solstice). After that date, days grow shorter (i.e. nights grow longer) until 21 December (solstice). This situation is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere (i.e. longest day is 21 December and shortest day is 21 June). In some parts of the world, however, "winter" or "summer" might refer to rainy versus dry seasons, respectively, rather than the coolest or warmest time of year.

Some long-day obligate plants are:

Some long-day facultative plants are:

  • Pea (Pisum sativum)
  • Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
  • Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
  • Wheat (Triticum aestivum, spring wheat cultivars)
  • Turnip (Brassica rapa)

Short-day plants

Short-day plants flower when the night is longer than a critical length. They cannot flower under long days or if a pulse of artificial light is shone on the plant for several minutes during the middle of the night; they require a consolidated period of darkness before floral development can begin. Natural nighttime light, such as moonlight or lightning, is not of sufficient brightness or duration to interrupt flowering.

In general, short-day (i.e. long-night) plants flower as days grow shorter (and nights grow longer) after 21 June in the Northern Hemisphere, which is during summer or fall. The length of the dark period required to induce flowering differs among species and varieties of a species.

Photoperiod affects flowering when the shoot is induced to produce floral buds instead of leaves and lateral buds. Note that some species must pass through a "juvenile" period during which they cannot be induced to flower -- common cocklebur is an example of a plant species with a remarkably short period of juvenility and plants can be induced to flower when quite small.

Some short-day obligate plants are:

Some short-day facultative plants are:

Hemp (Cannabis)
Cotton (Gossypium)
Rice
Sugar cane

Day-neutral plants

Day-neutral plants, such as cucumbers, roses and tomatoes, do not initiate flowering based on photoperiodism at all; they flower regardless of the night length. They may initiate flowering after attaining a certain overall developmental stage or age, or in response to alternative environmental stimuli, such as vernalization (a period of low temperature), rather than in response to photoperiod.

In animals

Daylength, and thus knowledge of the season of the year, is vital to many animals. A number of biological and behavioural changes are dependent on this knowledge. Together with temperature changes, photoperiod provokes changes in the colour of fur and feathers, migration, entry into hibernation, sexual behaviour, and even the resizing of sexual organs.

In mammals, for example, daylength is registered in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is informed by retinal light-sensitive ganglion cells, which are not involved in vision. The information travels through the retinohypothalamic tract (RHT).

Birds', such as the canary, singing frequency depends on the photoperiod. In the spring when the photoperiod increases (more daylight), the male canary's testes grow. As the testes grow, more androgens are secreted and song frequency increases. During autumn when the photoperiod decreases (less daylight), the male canary's testes regress and androgen levels dramatically drop resulting in decreased singing frequency. Not only is singing frequency dependent on the photoperiod but also song repertoire. The long photoperiod of spring results in a greater song repertoire. Autumn's shorter photoperiod results in a reduction in song repertoire. These behavioral photoperiod changes in male canaries are caused by changes in the song center of the brain. As the photoperiod increases so does the high vocal center (HVC) and the robust nucleus of the archistriatum (RA). When the photoperiod decreases these areas of the brain regress.[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ Nelson Randy J. (2005) An Introduction to Behavioral Endocrinology (p.189). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Related reading

  • D.E. Fosket, Plant Growth & Development, A Molecular Approach. Academic Press, San Diego, 1994, p. 495.
  • B. Thomas and D. Vince-Prue, Photoperiodism in plants (2nd ed). Academic Press, 1997.

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