The study of circadian behavior in model organisms is almost exclusively confined to the laboratory, where rhythmic phenotypes are studied under highly simplified conditions such as constant darkness or rectangular light–dark cycles. Environmental cycles in nature are far more complex, and recent work in rodents and flies has revealed that when placed in natural/seminatural situations, circadian behavior shows unexpected features that are not consistent with laboratory observations. In addition, the recent observations of clockless mutants, both in terms of their circadian behavior and their Darwinian fitness, challenge some of the traditional beliefs derived from laboratory studies about what constitutes an adaptive circadian phenotype. Here, we briefly summarize the results of these newer studies and then describe how Drosophila behavior can be studied in the wild, pointing out solutions to some of the technical problems associated with extending locomotor monitoring to this unpredictable environment. We also briefly describe how to generate sophisticated simulations of natural light and temperature cycles that can be used to successfully mimic the fly‘s natural circadian behavior. We further clarify some misconceptions that have been raised in recent studies of natural fly behavior and show how these can be overcome with appropriate methodology. Finally, we describe some recent technical developments that will enhance the naturalistic study of fly circadian behavior.
|Name||Methods in Enzymology|