Constant Light and Frequent Schedule Changes Do Not Impact Resistance to Parasites in Monarch Butterflies

Kandis L. Adams*, Elizabeth F. Sun, Wajd Alaidrous, Jacobus C. de Roode

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organisms have evolved internal biological clocks to regulate their activities based on external environmental cues, such as light, temperature, and food. Environmental disruption of these rhythms, such as caused by constant light or frequent light schedule changes, has been shown to impair development, reduce survival, and increase infection susceptibility and disease progression in numerous organisms. However, the precise role of the biological clock in host-parasite interactions is understudied and has focused on unnatural host-parasite combinations in lab-adapted inbred models. Here, we use the natural interaction between monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and their virulent protozoan parasite, Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, to investigate the effects of constant light and frequent light schedule changes on development, survival, and parasite susceptibility. We show that constant light exposure slows the monarchs’ rate of development but does not increase susceptibility to parasitic infection. Furthermore, frequent schedule changes decrease parasite growth, but have no effect on egg-to-adult survival of infected monarchs. Interestingly, these conditions are usually disruptive to the biological clock, but do not significantly impact the clock of monarch larvae. These unexpected findings show that constant light and frequent schedule changes can uncouple host and parasite performance and highlight how natural relationships are needed to expand our understanding of clocks in host-parasite interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-296
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Author(s).


  • circadian rhythms
  • desynchronization
  • host-parasite interactions
  • monarch butterflies
  • parasites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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