Difference Between Ectotherms and Endotherms (With Table)

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An Ectotherm is an animal that has to rely on external sources, such as sunlight or heat from the earth, for heat. Endotherms are animals that regulate their body temperature internally. Both Ectotherms and Endotherms terms may seem bewildering and similar, yet they are exceptionally different.

Ectotherms vs Endotherms

The difference between Ectotherms and Endotherms is that Ectotherms are usually cold-blooded animals that are generally more vulnerable and cannot regulate their body temperature, whereas, Endotherms are animals that regulate their body temperature internally that are warm-blooded.

Ectotherms are usually cold-blooded animals that cannot regulate their body temperature. They need either food or sunlight to produce enough heat to maintain a normal body temperature. Ectotherms are generally more vulnerable than their warm-blooded counterparts because they have thinner skin and are less mobile in colder climates where food may be scarce.

Endotherms are animals that can regulate their body temperature. Their bodies produce heat as a result of biochemical reactions that take place in cells. Endotherms can be more resistant to environmental changes than ectotherms because they regulate their body temperature via more complex mechanisms.

Comparison Table Between Ectotherms and Endotherms

Parameters of ComparisonEctothermsEndotherms
DefinitionAn Ectotherm is an animal that has to rely on external sources, such as sunlight and heat from the earth.Endotherms are animals that have specialized systems to maintain a stable internal body temperature at all times
Body TemperatureEctotherms are usually cold-blooded animals that cannot regulate their body temperature.Endotherms are animals that can regulate their body temperature.
ResistivityEctotherms can be less resistant to environmental changes.Endotherms can be more resistant to environmental changes.
Environmental EffectsEctotherms are not able to maintain a high body temperature because their body temperature varies depending on the environment.Endotherms can maintain a high body temperature regardless of environmental conditions.
IllustrationFish, amphibians, and invertebrates.Mammals, reptiles, and birds.

What is Ectotherms?

Ectotherms do not regulate their body temperature through internal physiological or behavioral adaptations. They externalize and modify the environment and use the sun, wind, and other elements to maintain a more desirable ambient body temperature. Ectotherms also regulate this internal body temperature either passively or actively, depending on their activity level. Active methods include the regulation of metabolic rate and behavioral thermoregulation.

Ectotherms are usually cold-blooded animals that cannot regulate their body temperature. They need either food or sunlight to produce enough heat to maintain a normal body temperature. If an Ectotherm is active, it will increase the metabolic rate at which cells are functioning. The increased metabolic rate will increase body temperature through differential thermal expansion, piggybacking of other cells, and other mechanisms.

The passive mechanisms of Ectotherm regulation occur within the cells where resting, inactivity, and many of the passive mechanisms that would normally maintain an ambient temperature in the environment. This allows for heat to be released from the body through conduction, radiation, and convection. Most Ectotherms only experience passive mechanisms when they are inactive. However, many Ectotherms can use their metabolic rate to passively regulate their internal temperature.

What is Endotherms?

Endotherms are animals that have specialized systems to maintain a stable internal body temperature at all times, thus creating a steep gradient from their head to their feet. They spend less energy as compared to ectotherms, where it is easier for the body to cool down as the animal moves away from the heat source. Moreover, their bodies also produce heat as a result of biochemical reactions that take place in cells.

Endotherms typically rely on an engine and specialized insulating layers of fur or feathers. Some endothermic mammals gain most of their heat through breathing and release heat by panting and sweating. Moreover, Endotherms create a steep thermal gradient in which the animal will be in a thermally neutral zone where the insulation and engine work together and prevent heat from escaping.

Endothermic animals can also regulate their body temperature through muscle contraction and by shifting the position of their fur or feathers. However, Endotherms are also capable of generating their body heat through insulating layers of fur or feathers. Only mammals possess this ability which means that only they can be considered as true Endotherms.

Main Differences Between Ectotherms and Endotherms

  1. An Ectotherm is an animal that has to rely on external sources, such as sunlight and heat from the earth, whereas, Endotherms are animals that have specialized systems to maintain a stable internal body temperature at all times.
  2. Ectotherms are usually cold-blooded animals that cannot regulate their body temperature, whereas, Endotherms are animals that can regulate their body temperature.
  3. Ectotherms can be less resistant to environmental changes, whereas, Endotherms can be more resistant to environmental changes.
  4. Ectotherms are not able to maintain a high body temperature because their body temperature varies depending on the environment, whereas, Endotherms can maintain a high body temperature regardless of the environmental conditions.
  5. Ectotherms illustration includes Fish, amphibians, and invertebrates, whereas the Endotherms illustration includes Mammals, reptiles, and birds.

Conclusion

Ectotherms are usually cold-blooded animals that cannot regulate their body temperature. They need either food or sunlight to produce enough heat to maintain a normal body temperature. Moreover, Ectotherms are generally more vulnerable than the warm-blooded counterparts well-known as Endotherms because they have thinner skin and are less mobile in colder climates where food may be scarce.

Endotherms are animals that have specialized systems to maintain a stable internal body temperature at all times, thus creating a steep gradient from their head to their feet. Endotherms typically regulate their body temperature through muscle contraction, which prevents heat from escaping. This method relies on the aerobic metabolism of the muscles but is active only when the animal is moving.

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00175505
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.4161/23328940.2014.989793
  3. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rspb.2016.2328
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