Rapidly accumulating evidence suggests that periodic behaviour is not confined to a limited number of cell types but is a common property of most biological systems. The argument for this proposition is presented by systematically cataloguing an atlas of biological and biochemical oscillators with periods of an hour or less. The listing consists of eight principal sections .and includes oscillations in secretory cells, neural oscillators, oscillations in muscle cells and rhythmic behaviour in growth and development. Each entry states the experimental preparation, the periodic event (the observed oscillatory variable), the period and lists references to the experimental literature. Four hundred and fifty experimental papers are cited.
The purpose of this atlas is to demonstrate the variety of oscillatory biological processes by listing in one place examples of several different classes of oscillator. The coverage is restricted to systems with periods of the order of hours or less. In some of the cases the requirement of strict periodicity has been relaxed and systems are included that return to a steady state after a limited number of cycles. Besides the specific papers listed in the atlas, several recent reviews provide valuable introductions to the subject. These include Aldridge (1976), Goldbeter & Caplan (1976), Hess & Boiteux (1971) and Hess, Boiteux, Busse & Gerisch (1975).
Long-period oscillations, notably circadian rhythms, are not included. Circadian oscillations are considered in books by Biinning (1973), Conroy & Mills (1970) and Hastings & Schweiger (1975). Oscillations in non-biological chemical systems, for example the Belousov-Zhabotinskii reaction, are not included (Tyson, 1976; Winfree, 1974). Ecological rhythms (May, 1974) and oscillations of clinical interest (Glass & Mackey, 1979; MacDonald, 1978; Mackey & Glass, 1977) have not been covered.
The papers in this volume provided many of the references in the atlas and special thanks should be directed to these authors.
Inevitably the coverage reflects my research interests and some important papers in the field have not been included. Colleagues are invited to send suggestions for inclusion in any subsequent editions of the atlas. As it is hoped to extend the coverage to include rhythmicity in systems of clinical interest, suggestions in these areas would be particularly welcome. An abridged listing of an earlier edition has appeared in Rapp (1979).