The purpose of this study was to determine whether exposure to a cycle of light and dark before the onset of the adrenal rhythm would be necessary in order for rats to develop a normal rhythm of peripheral corticosterone when placed in a test photoperiod at weaning age. Rats were reared in constant light (LL) until weaning age, at which time they were placed in a cycle of 14 h light, 10 h dark (14:10). Females born and reared in 14:10 had peak corticosterone values at 14.00 h on days 22 and 26, and at 18.00 h on days 32 and 36. Males did not display a clear-cut rhythm at 22 or 26 days but had peak corticosterone at 18.00 h on days 32 and 36. Males and females reared in LL until weaning had no rhythm as a group in 14:10 at 24 days of age, but had a corticosterone peak at 18.00 h on days 28 and 40. Females born and reared in LL and exposed to 14:10 for 1 day developed an adrenal rhythm regardless of the age at exposure, but only 25 day old animals showed a normal pattern for their age group. Puberty was advanced in rats exposed to a single day of 14:10 at 25 days of age, but was delayed in younger rats (22 days old), and was unaffected by light exposure in older rats (28 days of age). It can be concluded that early exposure to light-dark cycles is not required for the normal development of an adrenal rhythm in the weanling rat, and that the setting of the corticosterone rhythm to the photoperiod can occur quite rapidly. Rats at 25-26 days of age are able to respond differently to a light cycle challenge than younger rats. A photoperiodic stimulus at that time can advance the onset of puberty.