July 14, 2024

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How do animals know when it’s time to eat?

How do animals know when it’s time to eat?

We all have pets that we check on daily. When it’s time to eat, they stare at us, protest, or catch our attention in some way to make us understand that it’s lunchtime. Many members of the animal kingdom feed at about the same time every day, but, How do animals know that it is time to eat at any given moment? Why do some animals eat more during the day and others at night?

Eating food at regular intervals is essential for all living organisms, as it helps them adapt to their environment and stay healthy. Owning a Topical feeding routine It is nothing more than a response to environmental factors, such as light, temperature, food availability, and potential threats from predators. One of the main factors governing animal feeding schedules is the circadian rhythm, a natural cycle that repeats every 24 hours and regulates many biological functions. But the question remains in the air: How do they time and adjust their eating patterns?

How do animals know when it’s time to eat?Mid-Journey / Sarah Romero

Animals have several biological clocks

To find out, a team of scientists from Tokyo Metropolitan University investigated fruit flies, Small insects share many similarities with humans, and are therefore used in a wide range of scientific studies. Through a method called the CAFE test, the feeding amounts of individual flies can be accurately measured They investigated feeding patterns and their relationship to the surrounding shine.

Not only do animals have a circadian rhythm, they have other clocks, called peripheral clocks, that function differently and can be influenced by external cues, such as diet. During the Coffee experience They also manipulated genes and proteins involved in insect clocks. They discovered that there are certain genes and proteins that work like clocks in other parts of the fly’s body, telling it when to eat and when to fast. specially, Quasimodo gene (qsm) plays a critical role in synchronizing feeding with the light/dark cycle, but is ineffective under continuous dark conditions.

Under these conditions, the clock (clk) and cycle (cyc) genes are those that maintain the feeding and fasting cycles. They observed that by reducing the expression of the qsm gene, the flies’ diurnal feeding pattern was significantly affected. They discovered that this gene is necessary to synchronize nutrition with light and dark cycles. In addition, flies with mutations in essential circadian genes experienced severe changes in daily feeding patterns. Under complete darkness, flies with mutations in their core biological genes showed erratic feeding behaviors.

Panda bears are enjoyingMid-Journey / Sarah Romero

The researchers discovered that another set of genes, which are also part of the circadian clock mechanism but are located in neurons rather than metabolic tissues. They play a very important role in these vital functions. These genes helped synchronize feeding and fasting cycles with day and night cycles.

“In summary, our results reveal new pathways that regulate the formation of feeding rhythms in the body Fruit fly“The study authors wrote.”Eating and fasting rhythms coordinate metabolism and influence aging and life span. “Further studies of these axes could contribute to human health.”

food Time!Mid-Journey / Sarah Romero

The physiological cycle of circadian rhythm is shared among a wide range of organisms, from animals and plants to bacteria and algae.. It acts as a “master clock” and directs rhythmic behaviors. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that control food cycles can improve our understanding of living organisms Animal behaviorIncluding human behavior, which experts say could eventually lead to innovative treatments for eating disorders in humans.


  • “Anatomy of a Circadian Feeding Pattern: The Peripheral Clock/Cycle Feeding/fasting loops generate and synchronize neuromolecular clocks” by Akiko Maruko, Koichi M. Iijima and Kanae Ando, ​​7 October 2023, iScience. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2023.108164
  • Brancaccio, M., Edwards, M., Paton, A., Smillie, N., Chesham, J., Maywood, E., and Hastings, M. (2019). The astrocyte-autonomous clock drives circadian behavior in mammals. Science, 363, 187 – 192. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aat4104.
  • Almeida, B., Solis, P., Stickley, L., Fiedler, A., and Nagoshi, E. (2021). Neurofibromin 1 in mushroom body neurons mediates circadian drive of wakefulness through activation of cAMP-PKA signaling. Nature Communications, 12. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26031-2.
  • Chow, J., Warman, J., Staniowski, R., and Cheeseman, J. (2019). Development of the molecular circadian clock and its sensitivity to light in Drosophila melanogaster. Journal of Biological Rhythms, 34, 272 – 282. https://doi.org/10.1177/0748730419836818.
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