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Internal Clocks Influenced By The Color Of Light, Study Finds

Light Color Internal Clock

Researchers at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom have found changes in color, in addition to fluctuations in ambient light intensity, prerequisite to appropriate biological timing with regards to the solar cycle.

In the study, which was published on Friday in the journal PLOS Biology, researchers indicated that animals are currently only known to use variations in light quantity, known as irradiance, to adjust their internal circadian clocks in order to synchronize with the solar cycle, however, the study’s findings suggest changes in quality or “color” to be a new sensory mechanism for estimating time of day which, according to the researchers, “should be available to all mammals capable of chromatic vision, including humans.”

(…) using mice housed under lighting regimes with simulated dawn/dusk transitions, we show that changes in colour are required for appropriate biological timing with respect to the solar cycle. In sum, our data reveal a new sensory mechanism for estimating time of day that should be available to all mammals capable of chromatic vision, including humans.

Irradiance, which by definition as it pertains to physics is the flux of radiant energy per unit area, along with quality/color is one of the two components which characterize twilight.

Utilizing environmental measurements, the researchers found mammalian blue-yellow color discrimination to provide a more reliable method of tracking the progression of twilight than measuring irradiance alone.

The study’s authors cite the ability to predict and adapt to recurring events in the environment as a fundamental survival skill which living organisms across the world achieve through the implementation of endogenous circadian clocks, however, these clocks must be “regularly reset to local time” if they’re to adequately serve their ethological function.

In an unrelated study, engineers at the University of California at Berkeley have developed a synthetic color-changing “skin” reminiscent of the active camouflage a chameleon sports.

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