Thermodynamic effects on organismal performance: Is hotter better?

Michael J. Angilletta, Raymond B. Huey, Melanie R. Frazier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

227 Scopus citations


Despite decades of research on the evolution of thermal physiology at least one fundamental issue remains unresolved: whether the maximal performance of a genotype depends on its optimal temperature. One school argues that warm-adapted genotypes will outperform cold-adapted genotypes because high temperatures inevitably accelerate chemical reactions. Yet another school holds that biochemical adaptation can compensate for thermodynamic effects on performance. Here, we briefly discuss this theoretical debate and then summarize empirical studies that address whether hotter is better. In general, comparative and experimental studies support the view that hotter is better. Furthermore, recent modeling has shown that thermodynamic constraints impose unique selective pressures on thermal sensitivity. Nevertheless, the thermodynamic effect on maximal performance varies greatly among traits and taxa suggesting the need to develop a more sophisticated view of thermodynamic constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-206
Number of pages10
JournalPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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