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Thermoregulation

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Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different. A thermoconforming organism, by contrast, simply adopts the surrounding temperature as its own body temperature, thus avoiding the need for internal Thermoregulation. The internal thermoregulation process is one aspect of homeostasis: a state of dynamic stability in an organism’s internal conditions, maintained far from thermal equilibrium with its environment (the study of such processes in zoology has been called physiological ecology). If the body is unable to maintain a normal temperature and it increases significantly above normal, a condition known as hyperthermia occurs. Humans may also experience lethal hyperthermia when the wet bulb temperature is sustained above 35 °C (95 °F) for six hours. The opposite condition, when body temperature decreases below normal levels, is known as hypothermia. It results when the homeostatic control mechanisms of heat within the body malfunction, causing the body to lose heat faster than producing it.



'Body heat' redirects here. For other uses, see Body Heat (disambiguation).

'Body temperature' redirects here. For information regarding normal human body temperature, see Human body temperature. For the 2011 Japanese film, see Body Temperature (film).



Thermoregulation in animals
During cold weather many animals increase their thermal inertia by huddling.

Animals also engage in kleptothermy in which they share or even steal each other's body warmth. In endotherms such as bats and birds (such as the mousebird and emperor penguin) it allows the sharing of body heat (particularly amongst juveniles). This allows the individuals to increase their thermal inertia (as with gigantothermy) and so reduce heat loss. Some ectotherms share burrows of ectotherms. Other animals exploit termite mounds.
Some animals living in cold environments maintain their body temperature by preventing heat loss. Their fur grows more densely to increase the amount of insulation. Some animals are regionally heterothermic and are able to allow their less insulated extremities to cool to temperatures much lower than their core temperature—nearly to 0 °C (32 °F). This minimizes heat loss through less insulated body parts, like the legs, feet (or hooves), and nose.
Different species of Sonoran Desert Drosophila will exploit different species of cacti based on the thermotolerance differences between species and hosts. For example, Drosophila mettleri is found in cacti like the Saguaro and Senita; these two cacti remain cool by storing water. Over time, the genes selecting for higher heat tolerance were reduced in the population due to the cooler host climate the fly is able to exploit.
Some flies, such as Lucilia sericata, lay their eggs en masse. The resulting group of larvae, depending on its size, is able to thermoregulate and keep itself at the optimum temperature for development.


An ostrich can keep its body temperature relatively constant, even though the environment can be very hot during the day and cold at night.

Hibernation, estivation and daily torpor


To cope with limited food resources and low temperatures, some mammals hibernate during cold periods. To remain in 'stasis' for long periods, these animals build up brown fat reserves and slow all body functions. True hibernators (e.g., groundhogs) keep their body temperatures low throughout hibernation whereas the core temperature of false hibernators (e.g., bears) varies; occasionally the animal may emerge from its den for brief periods. Some bats are true hibernators and rely upon a rapid, non-shivering thermogenesis of their brown fat deposit to bring them out of hibernation.
Estivation is similar to hibernation, however, it usually occurs in hot periods to allow animals to avoid high temperatures and desiccation. Both terrestrial and aquatic invertebrate and vertebrates enter into estivation. Examples include lady beetles (Coccinellidae), North American desert tortoises, crocodiles, salamanders, cane toads, and the water-holding frog.
Daily torpor occurs in small endotherms like bats and hummingbirds, which temporarily reduces their high metabolic rates to conserve energy.


Variation in animals


Chart showing diurnal variation in body temperature.

Normal human temperature



Previously, average oral temperature for healthy adults had been considered 37.0 °C (98.6 °F), while normal ranges are 36.1 to 37.8 °C (97.0 to 100.0 °F). In Poland and Russia, the temperature had been measured axillarily (under the arm). 36.6 °C (97.9 °F) was considered 'ideal' temperature in these countries, while normal ranges are 36.0 to 36.9 °C (96.8 to 98.4 °F).[citation needed]
Recent studies suggest that the average temperature for healthy adults is 36.8 °C (98.2 °F) (same result in three different studies). Variations (one standard deviation) from three other studies are:


  • 36.4–37.1 °C (97.5–98.8 °F)
  • 36.3–37.1 °C (97.3–98.8 °F) for males, 36.5–37.3 °C (97.7–99.1 °F) for females
  • 36.6–37.3 °C (97.9–99.1 °F)

Measured temperature varies according to thermometer placement, with rectal temperature being 0.3–0.6 °C (0.5–1.1 °F) higher than oral temperature, while axillary temperature is 0.3–0.6 °C (0.5–1.1 °F) lower than oral temperature. The average difference between oral and axillary temperatures of Indian children aged 6–12 was found to be only 0.1 °C (standard deviation 0.2 °C), and the mean difference in Maltese children aged 4–14 between oral and axillary temperature was 0.56 °C, while the mean difference between rectal and axillary temperature for children under 4 years old was 0.38 °C.


Variations due to circadian rhythms


In humans, a diurnal variation has been observed dependent on the periods of rest and activity, lowest at 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. and peaking at 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monkeys also have a well-marked and regular diurnal variation of body temperature that follows periods of rest and activity, and is not dependent on the incidence of day and night; nocturnal monkeys reach their highest body temperature at night and lowest during the day. Sutherland Simpson and J.J. Galbraith observed that all nocturnal animals and birds – whose periods of rest and activity are naturally reversed through habit and not from outside interference – experience their highest temperature during the natural period of activity (night) and lowest during the period of rest (day). Those diurnal temperatures can be reversed by reversing their daily routine.
In essence, the temperature curve of diurnal birds is similar to that of man and other homoeothermal animals, except that the maximum occurs earlier in the afternoon and the minimum earlier in the morning. Also, the curves obtained from rabbits, guinea pigs, and dogs were quite similar to those from man. These observations indicate that body temperature is partially regulated by circadian rhythms.


Variations due to human menstrual cycles


During the follicular phase (which lasts from the first day of menstruation until the day of ovulation), the average basal body temperature in women ranges from 36.45 to 36.7 °C (97.61 to 98.06 °F). Within 24 hours of ovulation, women experience an elevation of 0.15–0.45 °C (0.27–0.81 °F) due to the increased metabolic rate caused by sharply elevated levels of progesterone. The basal body temperature ranges between 36.7–37.3 °C (98.1–99.1 °F) throughout the luteal phase, and drops down to pre-ovulatory levels within a few days of menstruation. Women can chart this phenomenon to determine whether and when they are ovulating, so as to aid conception or contraception.


Variations due to fever


Fever is a regulated elevation of the set point of core temperature in the hypothalamus, caused by circulating pyrogens produced by the immune system. To the subject, a rise in core temperature due to fever may result in feeling cold in an environment where people without fever do not.


Variations due to biofeedback


Some monks are known to practice Tummo, biofeedback meditation techniques, that allow them to raise their body temperatures substantially.


Low body temperature increases lifespan


It has been theorised that low body temperature may increase lifespan. In 2006, it was reported that transgenic mice with a body temperature 0.3–0.5 °C (0.5–0.9 °F) lower than normal mice lived longer than normal mice. This mechanism is due to overexpressing the uncoupling protein 2 in hypocretin neurons (Hcrt-UCP2), which elevated hypothalamic temperature, thus forcing the hypothalamus to lower body temperature. Lifespan was increased by 12% and 20% for males and females, respectively. The mice were fed ad libitum. The effects of such a genetic change in body temperature on longevity is more difficult to study in humans; in 2011, the UCP2 genetic alleles in humans were associated with obesity.


Limits compatible with life


There are limits both of heat and cold that an endothermic animal can bear and other far wider limits that an ectothermic animal may endure and yet live. The effect of too extreme a cold is to decrease metabolism, and hence to lessen the production of heat. Both catabolic and anabolic pathways share in this metabolic depression, and, though less energy is used up, still less energy is generated. The effects of this diminished metabolism become telling on the central nervous system first, especially the brain and those parts concerning consciousness; both heart rate and respiration rate decrease; judgment becomes impaired as drowsiness supervenes, becoming steadily deeper until the individual loses consciousness; without medical intervention, death by hypothermia quickly follows. Occasionally, however, convulsions may set in towards the end, and death is caused by asphyxia.
In experiments on cats performed by Sutherland Simpson and Percy T. Herring, the animals were unable to survive when rectal temperature fell below 16 °C (61 °F). At this low temperature, respiration became increasingly feeble; heart-impulse usually continued after respiration had ceased, the beats becoming very irregular, appearing to cease, then beginning again. Death appeared to be mainly due to asphyxia, and the only certain sign that it had taken place was the loss of knee-jerks.
However, too high a temperature speeds up the metabolism of different tissues to such a rate that their metabolic capital is soon exhausted. Blood that is too warm produces dyspnea by exhausting the metabolic capital of the respiratory centre;[citation needed] heart rate is increased; the beats then become arrhythmic and eventually cease. The central nervous system is also profoundly affected by hyperthermia and delirium, and convulsions may set in. Consciousness may also be lost, propelling the person into a comatose condition. These changes can sometimes also be observed in patients suffering from an acute fever.[citation needed] Mammalian muscle becomes rigid with heat rigor at about 50 °C, with the sudden rigidity of the whole body rendering life impossible.
H.M. Vernon performed work on the death temperature and paralysis temperature (temperature of heat rigor) of various animals. He found that species of the same class showed very similar temperature values, those from the Amphibia examined being 38.5 °C, fish 39 °C, reptiles 45 °C, and various molluscs 46 °C.[citation needed] Also, in the case of pelagic animals, he showed a relation between death temperature and the quantity of solid constituents of the body. In higher animals, however, his experiments tend to show that there is greater variation in both the chemical and physical characteristics of the protoplasm and, hence, greater variation in the extreme temperature compatible with life.


Arthropoda


The maximum temperatures tolerated by certain thermophilic arthropods exceeds the lethal temperatures for most vertebrates.
The most heat-resistant insects are three genera of desert ants recorded from three different parts of the world. The ants have developed a lifestyle of scavenging for short durations during the hottest hours of the day, in excess of 50 °C (122 °F), for the carcasses of insects and other forms of life which have succumbed to heat stress.
In April 2014, the South Californian mite Paratarsotomus macropalpis has been recorded as the world's fastest land animal relative to body length, at a speed of 322 body lengths per second. Besides the unusually great speed of the mites, the researchers were surprised to find the mites running at such speeds on concrete at temperatures up to 60 °C (140 °F), which is significant because this temperature is well above the lethal limit for the majority of animal species. In addition, the mites are able to stop and change direction very quickly.


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