Metabolism is the collective term for the chemical reactions that occur in cells and provide energy to keep cells alive. Some of the energy from metabolism is in the form of heat, and some animals use this heat to regulate their body temperatures. Such warm-blooded animals are called endotherms. In endotherms, problems with metabolism can lead to fluctuations in body temperature. When humans get sick, for instance, our body temperatures can rise higher than normal; we develop a fever. When food is scarce (especially in winter), some endotherms go into a state of controlled decreased metabolism called hibernation. During hibernation, the body temperatures of these endotherms actually decrease. In hot weather or when feverish, endotherms will pant or sweat to rid their bodies of excess heat.
|Body Temperature (°F)
|Body Temperature (°C)
|up to 110
|up to 43.5
Ectotherms, sometimes called cold-blooded animals, do not use the energy of metabolism to regulate body temperature. Instead, they depend on external energy sources, such as sunlight. Fish, for example, will seek out water of different temperatures to regulate body temperature. The amount of energy available is directly related to the metabolic rate of the animal. When energy is scarce, ectotherms may also hibernate.
The connection between metabolism and body temperature is a reminder that energy and chemical reactions are intimately related. A basic understanding of this relationship is especially important when those chemical reactions occur within our own bodies.