Evaluating thermoregulation in reptiles: An appropriate null model

Keith Christian, Christopher Tracy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Established indexes of thermoregulation in ectotherms compare body temperatures of real animals with a null distribution of operative temperatures from a physical or mathematical model with the same size, shape, and color as the actual animal but without mass. These indexes, however, do not account for thermal inertia or the effects of inertia when animals move through thermally heterogeneous environments. Some recent models have incorporated body mass, to account for thermal inertia and the physiological control of warming and cooling rates seen in most reptiles, and other models have incorporated movement through the environment, but none includes all pertinent variables explaining body temperature. We present a new technique for calculating the distribution of body temperatures available to ectotherms that have thermal inertia, random movements, and different rates of warming and cooling. The approach uses a biophysical model of heat exchange in ectotherms and a model of random interaction with thermal environments over the course of a day to create a null distribution of body temperatures that can be used with conventional thermoregulation indexes. This new technique provides an unbiased method for evaluating thermoregulation in large ectotherms that store heat while moving through complex environments, but it can also generate null models for ectotherms of all sizes. � 2006 by The University of Chicago.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)421-430
    Number of pages10
    JournalAmerican Naturalist
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2006


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