A regulated decrease in internal body temperature (Tb) appears to play a protective role against metabolic disruptions such as exposure to ambient hypoxia. This study examined the possibility that Tb depression is initiated when low internal oxygen levels trigger the release of adenosine, a neural modulator known to influence thermoregulation. We measured selected Tb of Anolis sagrei in a thermal gradient under varied ambient oxygen conditions and following the administration of the adenosine receptor antagonist 8-cyclopentyltheophylline (CPT). The average decrease in Tb observed following exposure to hypoxia (<10% O2) and following exhaustive exercise were 5 degrees and 3 degrees C, respectively, suggesting a role of oxygen availability on initiation of regulated hypothermia. When A. sagrei were run to exhaustion and recovered in hyperoxic (>95% O2) conditions, exercise-induced Tb depression was abolished. Administration of CPT similarly abolished decreased Tb due to both exercise and hypoxia. Trials using Dipsosaurus dorsalis indicate that elevated ambient oxygen during exercise does not influence blood pH or lactate accumulation, suggesting that these factors do not initiate changes in thermoregulatory setpoint following exhaustive exercise. We suggest that when oxygen is limiting, a decrease in arterial oxygen may trigger the release of adenosine, thereby altering the thermoregulatory setpoint.