Kleptothermy

an additional category of thermoregulation, and a possible example in sea kraits (Laticauda laticaudata, Serpentes)

François Brischoux*, Xavier Bonnet, Richard Shine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Lacking the capacity for thermogenesis, most ectotherms inhabiting thermally heterogeneous environments rely instead upon exploiting that ambient heterogeneity. In many cases they maintain body temperatures within a narrow range despite massive spatial and temporal variation in ambient conditions. Reliance on diverse thermal opportunities is reflected in specific terms for organisms that bask in sunlight to regulate their temperature (heliotherms), or that press their bodies against warm substrates to facilitate heat flow (thigmotherms), or that rely on large body mass to maintain thermal constancy (gigantothermy). We propose an additional category of thermoregulators: kleptotherms, which regulate their own temperature by 'stealing' heat from other organisms. This concept involves two major conditions: the thermal heterogeneity created by the presence of a warm organism in a cool environment and the selective use of that heterogeneity by another animal to maintain body temperatures at higher (and more stable) levels than would be possible elsewhere in the local area. Kleptothermy occurs in endotherms also, but is usually reciprocal (rather than unilateral as in ectotherms). Thermal monitoring on a small tropical island documents a possible example of kleptothermy, based on high stable temperatures of a sea snake (Laticauda laticaudata) inside a burrow occupied by seabirds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-731
Number of pages3
JournalBiology Letters
Volume5
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ectothermy
  • thermoregulation
  • thigmothermy
  • reptile
  • snake

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