Roosters are well-known for their morning cock-a-doodle-doo, but are they really equipped to tell the time of day with any reliability? A new study suggests that male roosters know the time of day with astounding accuracy, all thanks to a circadian clock.
The journal Current Biology published this week the results of a study aimed at identifying exactly what mechanism roosters use to tell the time of day, allowing them to crow promptly each morning.
While the obvious answer is that they see the sun rise above the horizon and respond accordingly, get this: roosters placed in an environment with constant lighting still crow first thing in the morning, like clockwork. While they do crow in response to light – at the sight of car headlights, for example – light isn’t the only thing at play in this equation.
Besides being a bit counter-intuitive to what most would consider an obvious answer, this curious fact lead the researchers behind this study to take a closer look, and what they found is even more interesting: roosters boast the same kind of internal clock that we posses.
Called a circadian clock, this internal time measurement system relies on biochemical mechanisms to oscillate with a period of 24 hours, allowing the creatures who have them to tell the time of day regardless of external stimuli like sunlight or temperature.
Playing a major role in many natural process, for humans and other animals alike, the circadian clock helps blind fish to navigate safely under the sea, mammals like us to sleep and eat – and roosters how to crow.