biorhythm or biological rhythm, cyclic pattern of changes in physiology or in activity of living organisms, often synchronized with daily, monthly, or yearly environmental changes. Rhythms that vary according to the time of day (circadian rhythms), in part a response to daylight or dark, include the opening and closing of flowers and the nighttime increase in activity of nocturnal animals. Circadian rhythms also include activities that occur often during a 24-hour period, such as blood pressure changes and urine production. Annual cycles, called cirannual rhythms, respond to changes in the relative length of periods of daylight and include such activities as migration and animal mating. Marine organisms are affected by tide cycles. Although the exact nature of the internal mechanism is not known, various external stimuli—including light, temperature, and gravity—influence the organism's internal clock; in the absence of external cues, the internal rhythms gradually drift out of phase with the environment.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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