Physiological mechanisms of thermoregulation in reptiles: a review

J Comp Physiol B. 2005 Nov;175(8):533-41. doi: 10.1007/s00360-005-0007-1. Epub 2005 Nov 11.


The thermal dependence of biochemical reaction rates means that many animals regulate their body temperature so that fluctuations in body temperature are small compared to environmental temperature fluctuations. Thermoregulation is a complex process that involves sensing of the environment, and subsequent processing of the environmental information. We suggest that the physiological mechanisms that facilitate thermoregulation transcend phylogenetic boundaries. Reptiles are primarily used as model organisms for ecological and evolutionary research and, unlike in mammals, the physiological basis of many aspects in thermoregulation remains obscure. Here, we review recent research on regulation of body temperature, thermoreception, body temperature set-points, and cardiovascular control of heating and cooling in reptiles. The aim of this review is to place physiological thermoregulation of reptiles in a wider phylogenetic context. Future research on reptilian thermoregulation should focus on the pathways that connect peripheral sensing to central processing which will ultimately lead to the thermoregulatory response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Environment
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Melatonin / pharmacology
  • Metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / physiology
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Reptiles / physiology*
  • Seasons


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Melatonin