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Challenges of measuring body temperatures of free-ranging birds and mammals

  • Dominic J. McCafferty
  • Susan Gallon
  • Andreas Nord
Publishing year: 2015-09
Language: English
Publication/Series: Animal Biotelemetry
Volume: 3
Issue: 1
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: BioMed Central (BMC)

Abstract english

The thermal physiology of most birds and mammals is characterised by considerable spatial and temporal variation in body temperature. Body temperature is, therefore, a key parameter in physiological, behavioural and ecological research. Temperature measurements on freely moving or free-ranging animals in the wild are challenging but can be undertaken using a range of techniques. Internal temperature may be sampled using thermometry, surgically implanted loggers or transmitters, gastrointestinal or non-surgically placed devices. Less invasive approaches measure peripheral temperature with subcutaneous passive integrated transponder tags or skin surface-mounted radio transmitters and data loggers, or use infrared thermography to record surface temperature. Choice of technique is determined by focal research question and region of interest that reflects appropriate physiological or behavioural causal mechanisms of temperature change, as well as welfare and logistical considerations. Particularly required are further studies that provide opportunities of continuously sampling from multiple sites from within the body. This will increase our understanding of thermoregulation and temperature variation in different parts of the body and how these temperatures may change in response to physiological, behavioural and environmental parameters. Technological advances that continue to reduce the size and remote sensing capability of temperature recorders will greatly benefit field research.


  • Zoology
  • Thermometry
  • Radio-telemetry
  • Temperature data logger
  • Passive integrated transponder
  • Infrared thermography
  • Thermocouple
  • Thermoregulation
  • Heterothermy


  • ISSN: 2050-3385
Andreas Nord at NHM London
E-mail: andreas [dot] nord [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se


Evolutionary ecology

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