Should Reptiles Feel Cold?

As every reptile owner will know, their reptiles will always seem cold to the touch. Is this the result of the owner’s mistake, or is this how the reptiles are supposed to feel?

Reptiles will always feel cold because they depend on their surroundings to regulate their body temperature. Before the scientists coined the word ectothermic to classify this form of thermoregulation, cold-blood was used.

The reptiles’ dependability on their surroundings is because they do not have the requisite body function or organs that help regulate their body temperature.

How Do Reptiles Regulate Body Temperature?

Body organs like sweat glands, fur/feathers, or activity like panting enable other species to regulate their body temperature no matter their surrounding temperature. This is the case with birds and amphibians.

On the other hand, reptiles find it hard to maintain a constant internal body temperature and, therefore, need to move from shades to sunlight. As a result, some of their crucial body functionality gets affected when the temperature becomes unbearable. 

In essence, reptiles function better in warm environments as their metabolic and reproductive function depends on the weather. In cold temperatures, they tend to hibernate, limiting their hunting capability to sit and wait.

How Does Reptiles Thermoregulatory Process Work?

The sophisticated reptiles’ thermoregulatory process encompassed regulating the shortwave radiation absorption level. They can achieve the desired body temp through radiation, conduction, and convection.

They expose the maximal area by adopting body angles that maximize the solar intake for maximum absorption. They also have specialized dark patches that decrease solar reflectivity, allowing the reptiles to absorb heat from hot surfaces through conduction.

To cool down, all they have to do is turn away from the sun’s rays to minimize the intake. They also readjust their body angles to restrict the dark patches from heat absorption. When the heat is severe, they seek shades where heat exchange is cooler.

While there has been a higher thermal dependency for reptiles, there are factors, like the Komodo dragon’s case. Its body mass gives them some sort of leniency over environmental temperature with their slower cooling functionality.

Marine iguanas are also known to circumvent solar dependability by controlling their circulatory system and concentrating blood flow in their core to limit heat loss. Leading the reptiles to spend a considerable amount of time under the sea without succumbing to adverse conditions.

Also, other marine reptiles take a similar approach by making circulatory adjustments, as in the case of sea turtles that adjust blood flow to their front flippers. Different reptiles have overcome the odds and can generate internal heat; brooding pythons is an example.

They can generate heat through frequent contraction of their skeletal muscles, which serves as an incubation temperature for their eggs. However, it’s hard for the animals to maintain a constant high temperature without an external radiation source.

What is the Preferred Reptile Body Temperature?

There isn’t a specific temperature best fit for all reptile species. Instead, their preferred optimal temperature zone (POTZ) varies widely depending on the species origin and terrain of their originated geographical location.

However, the estimated temperature for tropical reptiles needs to be 80-1000 F, Desert Species over 1000 daytime (and 60-800F night). Temperate species need 70-900F other varying temperatures to include monitoring lizards (120-1500F) and salamanders (50-600F).

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