Clocks in the Wild: Entrainment to Natural Light

Christoph Schmal, Hanspeter Herzel, Jihwan Myung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Entrainment denotes a process of coordinating the internal circadian clock to external rhythmic time-cues (Zeitgeber), mainly light. It is facilitated by stronger Zeitgeber signals and smaller period differences between the internal clock and the external Zeitgeber. The phase of entrainment ψ is a result of this process on the side of the circadian clock. On Earth, the period of the day-night cycle is fixed to 24 h, while the periods of circadian clocks distribute widely due to natural variation within and between species. The strength and duration of light depend locally on season and geographic latitude. Therefore, entrainment characteristics of a circadian clock vary under a local light environment and distribute along geoecological settings. Using conceptual models of circadian clocks, we investigate how local conditions of natural light shape global patterning of entrainment through seasons. This clock-side entrainment paradigm enables us to predict systematic changes in the global distribution of chronotypes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number272
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2 2020


  • circadian clock
  • entrainment
  • photoperiodism
  • seasonality
  • chronotype
  • Arnold onion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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