Literature Review: Optimal Temperature for Mammals

by Carl Strang

An article in ScienceDaily last year further underlined the physiological differences between reptiles and mammals, which I touched on a few days ago when describing my study of terrestrial turtles. The article described a study of body temperatures (Bergman, A., A. Casadevall. Mammalian Endothermy Optimally Restricts Fungi and Metabolic Costs. mBio, 2010; 1 (5): e00212-10 DOI: 10.1128/mBio.00212-10). They found that the common 37C body temperature we find in mammals is hostile to fungi, but a hotter setting would require more calorie intake.


Reptiles, lacking this defense, have many more fungal diseases. This is an example of optimality theory, which is an approach to the question of why things are the way they are. We all know that our healthy body temperature is 37C or 98.6F, but a scientist goes on to ask, why that particular temperature? The general hypothesis is that it is optimal, or better for some reason than lower or higher settings. This is a study that found some support for one reason.

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