Poikilotherm

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Related to Poikilothermy: Homeothermy, ectothermy

poikilotherm

[pȯi′kil·ə‚thərm]
(zoology)
An animal, such as reptiles, fishes, and invertebrates, whose body temperature varies with and is usually higher than the temperature of the environment; a cold-blooded animal.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Poikilotherm

 

a cold-blooded animal, that is, an animal with a variable body temperature that changes as a function of the temperature of the environment. Poikilotherms include all invertebrates; the only poikilothermic vertebrates are fishes, amphibians, and reptiles.

The body temperature of poikilotherms is generally only 1° or 2° higher than, or equal to, that of the environment. Thermoregulation is imperfect. In many poikilotherms the body temperature rises as a result of muscular work or the absorption of solar heat. For example, the body temperature of bumblebees in flight may reach 38° or even 44°C at an air temperature of 4° to 8°C. However, after the cessation of flight the body cools rapidly to the temperature of the environment. If the external temperature rises above or falls below optimal limits, poikilotherms become torpid or perish. Many of them are in torpor a large part of the year; for example, the turtle Testudo horsfieldi is active only three months of the year. The absence of perfect thermoregulatory mechanisms in poikilotherms may be explained by the relatively poor development of their nervous systems (especially the central nervous system), a level of metabolism approximately 20 to 30 times lower than that of homeo-therms, and other features associated with the fact that poikilotherms have a more primitive organization than birds and mammals.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.