The evolution of concepts on the evolution of endothermy in birds and mammals

Physiol Biochem Zool. Nov-Dec 2004;77(6):1043-50. doi: 10.1086/423741.


Warm-blooded animals, mammals and birds, are unique not because they are endothermic in the strict sense of the term but because they use an extravagant economy: they have high energy budgets and spend a large part of their energy resources on basic maintenance. Although several advantages of endothermy are easy to indicate, mechanisms behind evolution of such a wasteful life strategy remain unclear and have been subject to intensive debate. For two decades, the aerobic capacity model has been widely recognized as a promising hypothesis and has catalyzed a new direction in ecological and evolutionary physiology--the study of correlated evolution of behavioral and morphophysiological traits. Recently, two alternative models have been proposed, both of which see evolution of high metabolic rates in birds and mammals as an element in evolution of intensive parental care. Unlike previous models, which treated individuals as static objects of fixed properties, the parental care models explicitly incorporate life histories into a evolutionary-physiology research program. The aim of this article was to outline the process of evolution of major concepts in the field, which reflects development of the paradigm of modern evolutionary physiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Birds / genetics
  • Birds / physiology*
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Thermogenesis / genetics*
  • Thermogenesis / physiology*