Biology (Year 12)
Thermoregulation is a mechanism in which mammals have the ability to maintain body temperature within a narrow range, which occurs independent of external temperatures. Temperature regulation is a type of homeostasis and a means of preserving a stable internal temperature in order to survive.
Thermoregulatory mechanisms also include structural features, behavioural responses and physiological adaptations to control heat exchange and metabolic activity. Plants and animals must both control heat exchange and metabolic activity in order to survive. Thermoregulation is critical for survival, as most biochemical and physiological processes are temperature sensitive. Life is found over an extremely broad range of temperatures varying from -75 degrees Celsius to above 50 degrees Celsius, however, most individual species can only survive within a relatively narrow range of temperature, many not being able to exist in habitats with fluctuating temperatures. Their structural, behavioural and physiological adaptations help them to maintain their temperature in their narrow tolerance range. Within this range, each organism has an optimal temperature range in which it functions best.
What happens if temperatures are too high or too low? Different animals have differing optimal internal temperatures; these temperatures are the ones at which their enzymes work efficiently. If temperatures are too high for mammals, rising above their set point, their enzymes denature which leads to a failure of metabolic processes, and the individual suffers from hyperthermia. If temperature are too low for mammals, falling below their set point, enzyme function decreases significantly and the individual suffers from the effects of hypothermia.
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