Variations In The Temperature Of Man And Some Other Animals

As stated above, the temperature of warm-blooded animals is maintained with but slight variation. In health under normal conditions the temperature of man varies between 36° C. and 38° C., or if the thermometer be placed in the axilla, between 36.25° C. and 37.5° C. In the mouth the reading would be from .25° C. to 1.5° C. higher than this; and in the rectum some .9° C. higher still. The temperature of infants and young children has a much greater range than this, and is susceptible of wide divergencies from comparatively slight causes.

Of the lower warm-blooded animals, there are some that appear to be cold-blooded at birth. Kittens, rabbits and puppies, if removed from their surroundings shortly after birth, lose their body heat until their temperature has fallen to within a few degrees of that of the surrounding air. But such animals are at birth blind, helpless and in some cases naked. Animals who are born when in a condition of greater development can maintain their temperature fairly constant. In strong, healthy infants a day or two old the temperature rises slightly, but in that of weakly, ill-developed children it either remains stationary or falls. The cause of the variable temperature in infants and young immature animals is the imperfect development of the nervous regulating mechanism.

The average temperature falls slightly from infancy to puberty and again from puberty to middle age, but after that stage is passed the temperature begins to rise again, and by about the eightieth year is as high as in infancy. A diurnal variation has been observed dependent on the periods of rest and activity, the maximum ranging from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M., the minimum from 11 P.M. to 3 A.M. Sutherland Simpson and J. J. Galbraith have recently done much work on this subject. In their first experiments they showed that in a monkey there is a well-marked and regular diurnal variation of the body temperature, and that by reversing the daily routine this diurnal variation is also reversed. The diurnal temperature curve follows the periods of rest and activity, and is not dependent on the incidence of day and night; in monkeys which are active during the night and resting during the day, the body temperature is highest at night and lowest through the day. They then made observations on the temperature of animals and birds of nocturnal habit, where the periods of rest and activity are naturally the reverse of the ordinary through habit and not from outside interference.

They found that in nocturnal birds the temperature is highest during the natural period of activity (night) and lowest during the period of rest (day), but that the mean temperature is lower and the range less than in diurnal birds of the same size. That the temperature curve of diurnal birds is essentially similar to that of man and other homoiothermal animals, except that the maximum occurs earlier in the afternoon and the minimum earlier in the morning. Also that the curves obtained from rabbit, guinea-pig and dog were quite similar to those from man. The mean temperature of the female was higher than that of the male in all the species examined whose sex had been determined.

Meals sometimes cause a slight elevation, sometimes a slight depression - alcohol seems always to produce a fall. Exercise and variations of external temperature within ordinary limits cause very slight change, as there are many compensating influences at work, which are discussed later. Even from very active exercise the temperature does not rise more than one degree, and if carried to exhaustion a fall is observed. In travelling from very cold to very hot regions a variation of less than one degree occurs, and the temperature of those living in the tropics is practically identical with those dwelling in the Arctic regions.