Hazel, Jeffrey R. Department of Zoology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.
Last reviewed:August 2018
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The ability of animals to survive and function at widely different temperatures as the result of specific physiological adaptations. Temperature adaptation is one of the key characteristics necessary to ensure that an organism can live and exist in its environment over a potential range of temperatures. Temperature is an all-pervasive attribute of the environment that limits the activity, distribution, and survival of animals. Ocean temperatures range from −2 to 30°C (28 to 86°F), but considerably warmer temperatures are found near deep-sea hydrothermal vents (up to 350°C or 662°F), backwaters of desert streams (43°C or 109°F), and geothermal springs (90–100°C or 194–212°F). Air temperatures range from −70°C (−94°F) in polar regions to 80°C (176°F) at the desert surface. Although some bacteria and cyanobacteria (formerly referred to as blue-green algae) live at temperatures up to 110°C (230°F), life processes are generally restricted to the temperatures between 0 and 45°C (32 and 113°F), and most animals live within an even narrower range (Fig. 1). Limits for reproduction and development are generally narrower than those for survival of adults. See also: Adaptation (biology); Adaptive responses in animals to climate change; Physiological ecology (animal); Temperature
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