Little auks under the midnight sun: diel activity rhythm of a small diving seabird during the Arctic summer

  • Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas Department of Vertebrate Ecology and Zoology, Faculty of Biology, University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland
  • Piotr Wąż Department of Nuclear Medicine, Medical University of Gdanńsk, Gdańsk, Poland
  • Dariusz Jakubas Department of Vertebrate Ecology and Zoology, Faculty of Biology, University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland
Keywords: circadian rhythm, Alle alle, polar day, Zeitgeber, 24-hour daylight, dovekie


Many animal species exhibit a diel, 24-hr pattern of activity, which is steered by timing cues, with the daily light–dark cycle considered the most powerful. This cue, however, is reduced in polar zones under continuous daylight conditions associated with the midnight sun. The rhythm of animal behaviour under such conditions is poorly understood. Here, we examine periodicity and patterns of daily activity (colony attendance and foraging) in a High-Arctic seabird, the little auk (Alle alle). We demonstrated a regular rhythm of colony attendance at the population level, with birds being the most abundant in the colony during hours of relatively low sun elevation. This pattern is likely to be associated with predation pressure that may be perceived by birds as lower during hours with low sun elevation, because of better predator detectability. Regarding rhythms at an individual level, however, we found the most common periodicity to be 23.2 hr (range from 19.9 hr to 30.8 hr) but no clear pattern of daily colony attendance of individuals. Such a flexibility in daily rhythms indicates that individuals may become arrhythmic in regard to the 24-hr environmental cycle, despite regularities observed at the population level. Finally, we compared males and females in terms of daily activity patterns but we did not find significant sex differences.


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How to Cite
Wojczulanis-Jakubas K., Wąż P., & Jakubas D. (2020). Little auks under the midnight sun: diel activity rhythm of a small diving seabird during the Arctic summer. Polar Research, 39.
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