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Body Temperature Regulation in Animals

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  • 0:00 Temperature Regulation
  • 0:48 Sources of Heat
  • 1:48 Types of Regulation
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Animals have different ways of regulating their body temperatures, as well as different sources of body heat. In this lesson, we'll explore both how animals heat their bodies and how they control their internal temperatures.

Temperature Regulation

When you get cold you put on a sweater, and, when you get warm, you take it off. But despite your best efforts to change how warm or cold you are, your internal body temperature is actually pretty constant. Many other animals are the same as us, but for some animals, their internal body temperature changes with the temperature of their environment. And yet, other animals change their body temperature only during certain times of year.

No matter the method, all animals regulate their body temperature. Some do it internally or others utilize the environment, but either way, maintaining the correct body temperature range is critical for survival. If an animal gets too hot or too cold, their cellular processes will shut down, and the animal will die. Let's take a closer look at the different sources and types of body temperature regulation in animals.

Sources of Heat

When you go stand out in the sun you get warm, and it probably feels pretty good! But for some animals, it not only feels good, but it is also where they get heat for their body. Animals like us are called endotherms because we generate body heat through our own metabolism (endo- means 'inside'). Animals that cannot do this are called ectotherms, and they gain heat through outside sources such as the sun (ecto- means 'outside').

While endotherms can withstand a wide range of temperatures because of their internal heat generation, they also spend a lot of energy creating that internal body heat. As you can imagine, when it's cold outside, your body has to fight that external temperature change with internal heat generation, and energy-wise, this is very costly.

On the other hand, ectotherms have the luxury of simply finding a sunny rock to warm up their body, which is very low cost if we're talking energy! However, they are limited to areas that can provide the heat they need, and their cells need to be prepared to deal with a variety of internal temperatures.

Types of Regulation

What we just talked about are the sources of body heat, but now we're going to look at different types of body temperature regulation. Some animals maintain a constant internal body temperature, while others change their body temperature at different times of the year, like during hibernation.

Animals that maintain a constant internal body temperature are called homeotherms (homeo- means 'same'). This includes animals like humans, other mammals, and birds. Those that sometimes change their body temperature are called heterotherms (hetero- means 'different'). Being able to change your internal body temperature is a great advantage for those who need it, and this includes animals like bears, bats, and some rodents and birds.

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