Thermal dependence of locomotor capacity

Am J Physiol. 1990 Aug;259(2 Pt 2):R253-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1990.259.2.R253.


The thermal dependence of locomotor performance capacity, particularly speed and endurance, in vertebrate ectotherms is examined. Most studies have found an optimal speed for performance at relatively high body temperatures, close to upper lethal limits. These performance capacities decrease markedly at low body temperatures and may be compensated by increments in aggressive or evasive behaviors. Relative ranking of performance is maintained among individuals across body temperatures. Acclimation of performance capacities is generally incomplete or entirely absent: most animals compensate locomotor performance rather poorly to cold exposure. Locomotor performance in different groups has been shown to possess the attributes (e.g., variability, repeatability, heritability, and differential survivorship) necessary for evolutionary adaptation, but interpretation of comparative data is complicated by phylogenetic differences among species studied. Controlled studies show partial but incomplete adaptation to environmental temperature.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors