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Light spectrum and intensity, and the timekeeping in birds

Kumar, Jayant, Gupta, Preeti, Naseem, Asma, Malik, Shalie
Biological rhythm research 2017 v.48 no.5 pp. 739-746
birds, brain, chemical elements, color, energy expenditure, eyes, light intensity, melatonin, photoreceptors, physiology, wavelengths
The important aspect of light environment is to provide time-of-day and time-of-year information to the endogenous machinery that measures time. In a 24 h day there are conspicuous alterations in light intensity and spectrum. VIBGYOR is the visible portion of spectrum covering the light wavelength range from 380-760 nm. Each wavelength can activate the select class of photoreceptors, and hence a specific colour is experienced. Photoreceptors have opsin-based molecules that can trap light and thus play a key role in the perception of light and dark signals of the day. Eyes are the main photoreceptive structure but non-mammalian vertebrates such as birds have both retinal (eyes) and extra-retinal (e.g. lateral eyes, pineal, parapineal organs and deep brain photoreceptors) structures for photoreception. These opsin-based molecules found in different regions of the eyes and brain are sensitive to different wavelengths of light, hence play an important role in regulating the circadian and seasonal rhythms by decoding dawn and dusk; the time of maximum transition in wavelength and intensity of light. The melatonin pattern is also affected by light characteristics. In birds, the wavelength is shown to affect orientation and energy expenditure as well. This review focuses on different aspects of light wavelength and intensity affecting avian physiology and behaviour.