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Body Temperature Frequency Distributions: A Tool for Assessing Thermal Performance in Endotherms?

Levesque, DL, Nowack, J and Boyles, JG (2021) Body Temperature Frequency Distributions: A Tool for Assessing Thermal Performance in Endotherms? Frontiers in Physiology, 12. ISSN 1664-042X

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There is increasing recognition that rather than being fully homeothermic, most endotherms display some degree of flexibility in body temperature. However, the degree to which this occurs varies widely from the relatively strict homeothermy in species, such as humans to the dramatic seasonal hibernation seen in Holarctic ground squirrels, to many points in between. To date, attempts to analyse this variability within the framework generated by the study of thermal performance curves have been lacking. We tested if frequency distribution histograms of continuous body temperature measurements could provide a useful analogue to a thermal performance curve in endotherms. We provide examples from mammals displaying a range of thermoregulatory phenotypes, break down continuous core body temperature traces into various components (active and rest phase modes, spreads and skew) and compare these components to hypothetical performance curves. We did not find analogous patterns to ectotherm thermal performance curves, in either full datasets or by breaking body temperature values into more biologically relevant components. Most species had either bimodal or right-skewed (or both) distributions for both active and rest phase body temperatures, indicating a greater capacity for mammals to tolerate body temperatures elevated above the optimal temperatures than commonly assumed. We suggest that while core body temperature distributions may prove useful in generating optimal body temperatures for thermal performance studies and in various ecological applications, they may not be a good means of assessing the shape and breath of thermal performance in endotherms. We also urge researchers to move beyond only using mean body temperatures and to embrace the full variability in both active and resting temperatures in endotherms.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 0606 Physiology, 1116 Medical Physiology, 1701 Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QP Physiology
Divisions: Biological & Environmental Sciences (from Sep 19)
Publisher: Frontiers Media
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2021 10:38
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 10:45
DOI or ID number: 10.3389/fphys.2021.760797
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/15672
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