Reptile Thermoregulation

In natural habitats a reptile must be able to access a broad range of heat sources. It must also be able to reach its physiological optimum body temperature and remain at it for long periods.


For this to occur there must be a rapid equilibration between gains in heat through radiation, conduction and convection and losses by evaporation.

Temperature Sensors

Reptiles have a number of molecular sensors that detect environmental temperature. These sensors help them regulate their internal body temperature. The sensors are sensitive to both heat and cold, making them perfect for thermoregulation in a variety of environments. Using a sensor t 크레스티드게코 o determine how much heat is needed to achieve the desired body temperature can help a reptile avoid overheating and over-cooling, which is common in most reptiles.

Temperature sensors are also able to detect how fast the environment is changing. When a snake feels a sudden change in air temperature, it will adjust its behavior accordingly. If it feels that it is getting too warm, it will move to a cooler area to cool down, while if it is too cold, it will move closer to the source of heat to stay warmer.

Another way that temperature sensors are used in reptiles is to detect changes in the pit organ. The pit receptors are incredibly sensitive to temperature changes. In fact, the slightest change in temperature will cause the pit to discharge nerve impulses at a rapid rate. However, this is not the same for steady temperatures, which do not elicit a significant change in the pit’s resting pulse rate.

To measure this, researchers use a foil packet and thermometer apparatus. The researchers place the reptile in a cage with a thermal gradient and record their observations. They then use this information to predict the ideal body temperature for that reptile. Then they compare that predic 크레스티드게코 tion with the actual body temperature for the reptile. The difference is the reptile’s thermal efficiency index.


Thermocouples use two different metals to form a circuit with an open or closed voltage at the junction. When one of the metals is heated or cooled, it induces a voltage in the other that can be detected by measuring devices and correlated back to temperature. Reptiles may be able to sense the change in voltage, which is proportional to temperature, produced by these sensors, known as thermoreceptors. These sensors are found throughout the body, including in the hypothalamus and somatosensory areas of the brain. Molecular studies have shown that some reptiles, such as the frog Xenopus and estuarine (saltwater) crocodile, C. porosus, have heat-sensing TRPV channels and cold-sensing TRPM channels in muscle, liver and heart tissues.

Herpetologists have also studied how reptiles use thermoreceptors to detect thermal gradients. For example, many reptiles lay their eggs in underground nests that are often heated by sunlight falling on the ground above them. Observations of prehatching lizard behavior suggest that they can detect these small-scale differences in egg temperatures and move to exploit them.

This is because, unlike mammals and birds, who are endothermic, reptiles, such as lizards, snakes, and turtles, are ectotherms and cannot generate their own internal thermal energy. Instead, they use behavioral thermoregulation to maintain their body temperatures within physiologically safe limits. When their body temperature gets too low, they seek warm environments to raise it; when it’s too high, they cool off by swimming or burrowing into the sand.

Thermoregulation During Sleep

Reptiles can’t produce internal heat like mammals or birds, so they depend on their environment to keep them warm and cool. They can change their body temperature by changing their behavior to meet their needs. Thermoregulation is a key part of their ability to do this, and it plays a big role in helping them sleep.

The normal sleep onset period is associated with a decrease in core temperature (Tcore), which is initiated by an underlying circadian rhythm. The decrease in Tcore is triggered by an increase in peripheral skin temperature (Tsk). This is a result of reduced activation of noradrenergic vasoconstrictor tone, resulting in selective vasodilation of distal skin regions. This reduces the flow of cool blood to the skin, thereby facilitating heat loss to the environment.

As sleep progresses, a general increase in Tsk is observed along with a decrease in REM stage duration. This may be due to thermoregulatory changes involving the hypothalamus and the brain.

Thermoregulation also involves a shift in energy metabolism to fat synthesis during sleep, which helps with energy conservation. This is an important aspect of thermoregulation, particularly for ectothermic reptiles. For instance, women with menopause can experience thermal regulation problems because they are losing their natural source of heat – the evaporation of their own sweat. These symptoms can cause them to sleep less, which makes it harder for them to reach the ideal body temperature to be active.

Thermoregulation During Activity

When reptiles are active during the day, they must make use of their environment to heat themselves. This is because unlike mammals and birds, reptiles are ectotherms, meaning they cannot generate their own internal body heat through the enzymatic breakdown of fats or other chemical reactions. This means that if they are not exposed to a suitable external source of heat, their proteins will start to break down, and the reptile will die.

In order to avoid this, reptiles must be constantly on the lookout for heat sources. This can be done using a combination of methods. One method is to bury themselves in sand or soil, which will trap their own body heat and allow them to stay warm (see image above). This method is most commonly used by reptiles living in dry climates, such as deserts or savannahs.

Another way to get the heat they need is to bask in the sun. This is commonly seen with lizards, and it is also the preferred method of thermoregulation by many snake species. This is achieved through the use of a pit, which is filled with sand and soil, and lined with a densely innervated membrane. Over this is a thin layer of tissue that contains treelike structures of bare unmyelinated nerve fibres which detect the radiation of heat, and can also localize coarsely its direction.