Date of Award

Spring 4-12-2021

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Frank Schieber

Second Advisor

Kenneth Renner

Third Advisor

Jan Berkhout


marsupials, sugar gliders, Petaurus breviceps, intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs), red light, blue light, behavior, artificial lighting

Subject Categories

Animal Studies | Cognition and Perception | Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Other Social and Behavioral Sciences | Zoology


Sugar gliders are an exotic pet that is increasing in popularity in households as well as in zoos. One challenge that caregivers have to manage is their nocturnal circadian rhythm. In order for people to view or interact with sugar gliders during their active time, many zoos will reverse their diurnal cycle with lights. The discovery of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) which seems to have an increased sensitivity to blue light and how these cells affect the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and circadian rhythm has led to an increase in awareness on the health effects of being exposed to blue light from unnatural sources. While the ipRGCs have been studied mostly in mammals, little research has been completed in marsupials, and few studies have been completed on how the choice in light color will affect sugar glider behavior in captivity. In this study, two sugar gliders were observed in three different conditions of illumination; infrared (IR), red, and blue. It was found that red and blue lights were both disruptive to behavior evident by decreased activity, and blue light appeared especially disruptive and stressful evident by the decrease in the frequency of most behaviors and defecation in their feeding box.



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