poikilothermy The passive variation in the internal body temperature of an animal, which depends on the temperature of the environment. All animals except birds and mammals exhibit poikilothermy and are described as ectotherms. Although unable to maintain a constant body temperature, they can respond to compensate for very low or very high temperatures. For example, the tissue composition (especially cell osmotic pressure) can change to regulate the blood flow to peripheral tissues (and thus increase heat loss or heat absorption), and the animals can actively seek sun or shade. Seasonal changes in metabolism are usually under hormonal control. In particularly hot climates, ectotherms may undergo aestivation to escape the heat. Compare homoiothermy.
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