Ecophysiology attempts to understand the potential limits placed on organisms by their physiology, how organisms respond to particular environmental challenges, and how organisms have adapted to their ecological niches. In this context, it is important to note that while many environments are stressful and have the potential to disrupt homeostasis, the organisms that live in these environments are able to grow, mature, and reproduce under these challenging conditions. We can determine how a given species copes with an extreme environment through studies of specific physiological mechanisms. Behavior is the highest or broadest level of potential mechanism, followed by the system, organ, cellular, and molecular levels. Studies of animal behavior and functional morphology typically describe the highest levels of potential mechanisms. At lower levels, biomechanical and classical physiological mechanisms are examined. Ecophysiologists often hypothesize that these mechanisms represent adaptations to the ecological niche of the organism, and hypothesized adaptations are tested using the comparative method.

See also: Acclimation; Animal Physiology; Desert Streams; Deserts; Environmental Stress and Evolutionary Change; Habitat Selection and Habitat Suitability Preferences; Homeostasis; Physiological Ecology; Rocky

Intertidal Zone; Systems Ecology; Thermoregulation in Animals; Tolerance Range.

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