Using direct calorimetry to test the accuracy of indirect calorimetry in an ectotherm

Physiol Biochem Zool. Jul-Aug 2006;79(4):830-5. doi: 10.1086/505514. Epub 2006 Jun 21.


We previously demonstrated that the relationship between respiratory gas exchange and metabolic heat production is unexpectedly variable and that conventional approaches to estimating energy expenditure by indirect calorimetry can incorporate large errors. Prior studies, however, comparing direct and indirect calorimetry of animals focused only on endothermic organisms. Given that endothermy and ectothermy represent a fundamental dichotomy of animal energetics, in this analysis we explore how these contrasting physiologies correlate with the relationship between heat production and respiratory gas exchange. Simultaneous indirect and direct calorimetry in an ectotherm, the ball python (Python regius Shaw), revealed that the relationships between gas exchange and heat production were within 1% of those expected when analyses using indirect calorimetry were based on the assumption that the fasting animal catabolized only protein. This accuracy of indirect calorimetry contrasts sharply with our previous conclusions for three species of birds and mammals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology*
  • Boidae / physiology*
  • Calorimetry / methods*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors