Handbook of Squirrel Monkey Research

pp 219-252

Thermoregulation in the Squirrel Monkey

  • Eleanor R. AdairAffiliated withJohn B. Pierce Foundation and Yale University

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The squirrel monkey is an endotherm, an organism capable of maintaining a stable internal body temperature in the face of rather wide fluctuations in the temperature of the environment. Thermoregulation in endotherms is accomplished by fine adjustments in appropriate autonomic response systems, by which the body gains or loses heat, acting in concert with a wide range of behavioral maneuvers that provide a hospitable microclimate for the animal. Whenever possible, the behaviorally generated microclimate is thermally neutral, a situation that maximizes the economy of energy stores and water in the body, and minimizes the involvement of autonomic mechanisms. Thus, the description of thermoregulation in any endotherm involves detailed knowledge of thermoregulatory behavior, both instinctive and learned, and of individual autonomic processes of heat production and heat loss. As we shall see, the particular autonomic response that may be operative at a given time is dictated by the environmental temperature: i.e., squirrel monkeys shiver in the cold and sweat in the heat, but not the reverse, and they will avoid doing either one if an efficient behavioral maneuver is available to them.