Evaluating thermoregulation in reptiles: the fallacy of the inappropriately applied method

Frank Seebacher*, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)
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Given the importance of heat in most biological processes, studies on thermoregulation have played a major role in understanding the ecology of ectothermic vertebrates. It is, however, difficult to assess whether body temperature is actually regulated, and several techniques have been developed that allow an objective assessment of thermoregulation. Almost all recent studies on reptiles follow a single methodology that, when used correctly, facilitates comparisons between species, climates, and so on. However, the use of operative temperatures in this methodology assumes zero heat capacity of the study animals and is, therefore, appropriate for small animals only. Operative temperatures represent potentially available body temperatures accurately for small animals but can substantially overestimate the ranges of body temperature available to larger animals whose slower rates of heating and cooling mean that they cannot reach equilibrium if they encounter operative temperatures that change rapidly through either space or time. This error may lead to serious misinterpretations of field data. We derive correction factors specific for body mass and rate of movement that can be used to estimate body temperature null distributions of larger reptiles, thereby overcoming this methodological problem.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)688-695
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2004 by The University of Chicago.


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