Give Now

A Moment of Science

People Are Endothermic, Snakes Are Ectothermic

Snakes regulate their body temperature using their environment, humans regulate their body temperature internally.

a green snake

An Ahaetulla prasina. Some of its common names are oriental whipsnake and Asian Vinesnake. (Rushen, Flickr)

You probably know that humans are warm-blooded, while creatures like snakes are cold-blooded. Remember, Scientists prefer the terms endothermic and ectothermic.

Snakes are ectothermic which means they’re dependent on their environment for heat. Humans, on the other hand, are endothermic which means our body chemistry regulates our temperature and keeps it constant.

Brr!

Chemical reactions like the ones that enable us to move our muscles run slowly when it’s cold and more quickly when it’s warm. If we were forced to live at the temperature of the world around us, we would lose the advantage of being able to function at night and in lots of different habitats.

Instead, every time it got cold, we’d become sluggish and less able to fend for ourselves; we’d end up having to compete with snakes and other reptiles for the same resources.

Chemical Activities

You might be wondering how our bodies manage to stay warm. About sixty to eighty percent of the chemical activity that takes place inside our cells has no other purpose than to release heat.

The cost of all that activity is high. That’s why endothermic animals need more food to keep functioning than ectothermic animals of the same weight.

Sources And Further Reading:

  • Khan Academy. “Endotherms & ectotherms.” Biology: Principles of Physiology. Accessed February 21, 2018.
  • Ramel, Gordon. ” What is Warm-Blooded?” The Earthlife Web. Accessed February 21, 2018.
  • Rush Medical Center. “How the Body Regulates Heat.” Accessed February 21, 2018.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science