Reptiles and other poikilothermic animals bask in warm weather and must hibernate in winter. The body temperature of fishes must remain close to that of the surrounding water, because heat is lost directly into the water during respiration; however, in some fishes, such as the bluefin tuna, a special network of fine veins and arteries called the rete mirabile provides a thermal barrier against loss of metabolic heat. The mechanism of temperature regulation in homeotherms is considered an important evolutionary advance in that physical activity in such animals can be relatively independent of the environment.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.