October 14, 2014

Peer Review: Trisha Basu ’15 Studies the Circadian Rhythms of Moths

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Trisha Basu ’15 is studying how the circadian rhythms of two species of moths may affect their behavior as pollinators. In the lab of Prof. Robert Raguso, neurobiology and behavior, Basu examines insect-plant pollination models. The symbiotic relationship between flowering plants and their pollinators is sometimes correlated with the circadian rhythms of the pollinator.

Circadian rhythms are internal biological clocks that regulate processes in an organism including metabolism and internal body temperature. Often set by external cues such as sunlight-darkness cycles, circadian rhythms can cause jet lag or other sleep disorders when disturbed. Some flowers open only at night because their pollinators’ rhythms cause them to be nocturnal, Basu said.

Basu is specifically looking at Manduca sexta, the Carolina sphinx moth, and Hyles lineata, the hummingbird moth. According to Basu, the Carolina sphinx moth is a common model organism in scientific experiments due to its large size, short life span, and easily accessible nervous system. Both it and the hummingbird moth are found throughout the United States but have different foraging patterns.

Courtesy of Trisha Basu ’15Model moths | Trisha Basu ’15 studies the circadian rhythms of the Carolina sphinx moth, which appears to be nocturnal. The moth is used as a model organism for scientific experiments because of its large size, short life span, and easily accessible nervous system, Basu said.