Microcebus murinus exhibits highly seasonal biological rhythms to cope with extreme seasonality in availability of resources. To study the role of daylength on seasonal changes in body mass and reproductive function, we exposed male and female gray mouse lemurs to natural, constant, or alternating light cycles for 2 years under constant environmental conditions. When exposed to either constant short (SD: 10 h light/day), long (LD: 14 h light/ day), or intermediate (ID: 12 h light/day) daylength, males and females maintained a constant body mass with no spontaneous cyclic variation. We only observed typical seasonal body mass changes in subjects exposed to alternating periods of SD and LD, the weight gain being triggered by SD, whereas weight loss occurred under LD. Reproductive activity in females proceeded from an endogenous rhythm that was expressed under constant daylengths. In contrast, changes in reproductive activity in males depended on daylength variation. In both sexes, SD and LD have direct inhibitory or stimulatory effects on reproductive activity. In females, daylength regulates breeding season by synchronizing an endogenous sexual rhythm with the season, whereas in males, the perception of a critical photoperiod is used to determine the subsequent onset or arrest of their breeding season. These sexual differences in the effect of daylength could be related to sex-specific differences in reproductive constraints.
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