For ectotherms (also referred to as cold-blooded organisms), environmental temperatures can influence a variety of life history traits (ex. adult body size, metabolic rate, locomotor ability, movement patterns, foraging and feeding rates, reproductive output and offspring viability). As such, ectotherms are very sensitive to changes in environmental temperatures, and they use a behavior called thermoregulation to control their body temperatures. Thermoregulation can consist of moving to habitats with suitable temperatures, increasing or decreasing the duration of basking behaviors, or through alterating the way that their bodies are in contact with the substrate. Understanding the ways that organisms interact with their environment can help uncover factors that have influenced their ecology. One way to investigate the thermoregulatory behaviors of organisms is to use a thermal gradient. These gradients usually consist of an enclosure offering two extremes in temperature (one cold end and one hot end). In between these two extremes exist range of temperatures that an organisms can choose. This temperature is referred to as a “preferred body temperature”. In my latest publication in the journal Euscorpius, Dr. Robert W. Bryson Jr. and I describe a new method of constructing a (cost-effective) thermal gradient to study the thermoregulatory behaviors of small-bodied ectotherms.
Webber, M.M. and R.W. Bryson Jr. 2012. A Novel Thermal Gradient Design for Small-Bodied Ectotherms. Euscorpius, No.140 (19 May 2012). [PDF]