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A team of Sapienza researchers at the “Dirigibile Italia” Arctic base in Ny-Alesun (Svalbard Islands) has studied the biorhythm of arctic animals to assess the effects of light and darkness cycles on their biological clocks.

The research project, conducted by Vittrio Pasquali, a researcher at the Neuroscience Section of the Sapienza Psychology Department, focused on the Lepidulus arcticus (Branchiopora, Notostraca), a crustacean that has never been analysed before and which represents an optimal animal model to study the genes related to biological rhythms.

Recently, Karl-Arne Stokkan from the University of Tromsø in Norway postulated that the biological clock of polar animals, during periods of full light or darkness, has a weak hold on daily behavioural and physiological functions, while during the short period of normal light/darkness cycles (only a few weeks a year) everything works perfectly, as if there were a “switch” capable of disconnecting the biological clock when there is no regular astronomic rhythm.

“Besides proving the hypothesis of the Norwegian research team,” underlines Vittorio Pasquali, “this project will provide new data on the genes and biological rhythms of polar animals. It will shed light on the possibilities and limits of human adaptation to different cycles of light and darkness.”

Following the mission conducted by Paolo de Bernardis and Silvia Masi from the Sapienza Department of Physics, who studied cosmic radiation in the arctic in 2012, this new team consolidates Sapienza research in the North Pole. The Sapienza mission was conducted in collaboration with the University of Ferrara and the CNR “Unità di Supporto all’attività Polare del Dipartimento Scienze del Sistema Terra e Tecnologie per l'Ambiente” and sponsored by the VI Comunità Montana del Velino, as well as a series of associations and private companies in the province of Rieti and the Rome Confucio Institute.

The Ny-Alesund Arctic base also hosts the Chineses “Yellow River Station” of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration.

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