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Too Hot to Trot?

The Role of Exercise in Homeostasis


Ashley E. Rhodes
Division of Biology
Kansas State University
Timothy G. Rozell
Animal Sciences and Industry
Kansas State University


This interrupted case study looks at heat stress through the eyes of “Nelly,” a chatty, country Holstein. Although focusing on dairy cattle, the case can be used to teach the physiology of body temperature regulation in any number of homeothermic animals and the added challenges posed by larger body sizes and increasing environmental temperatures. Such challenges typically affect livestock, wildlife and even zoo animals. The physiological concepts discussed are thus related to difficulties faced by larger animals in hotter climates and include homeostasis of body temperature and feedback mechanisms that regulate body temperature. The case also explores the potential benefits of exercise as a means to improve thermoregulation, and describes the physiological changes that occur in response to exercise, ultimately tying physiological concepts back to specific mechanisms of homeostasis of body temperature. The case is ideally suited to students in intermediate physiology or biology courses who have completed at least a general biology or similar course in the recent past.


  • Describe physiological acclimations to increased environmental temperatures.
  • Recognize the role that body size has on altering the surface area to internal volume ratio, and the impacts of this important parameter on temperature regulation.
  • Explain the role of the thermal neutral zone in energy expenditures by animals.
  • Complete and appraise components of homeostatic loops involved in thermoregulation.
  • Recognize the difference between temperature and heat.
  • Evaluate how different mechanisms of heat transfer are involved in physiological thermoregulation.
  • Relate vasculogenesis and angiogenesis to mechanisms of physiological acclimation caused by increased environmental temperatures.
  • Distinguish how physiological changes resulting from exercise should improve thermoregulatory efficiency.


Thermoregulation; thermal neutral zone; homeostasis; regulated physiological variables; vascularization; feedback mechanisms; climate change; artificial selection; acclimatization;

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate upper division, Graduate



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Anatomy  |   Agriculture  |   Environmental Science  |   Physiology  |  

Date Posted


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