Energetic Influence of Endotherms on Ecosystems

Endothermy is more energetically costly than ectothermy. Because endotherms use more energy than ectotherms, the same amount of food can maintain a larger population of similar-sized ectotherms than endotherms. Moreover, 90% or more of the energy assimilated by endotherms is converted to heat, so only a small percentage of the food energy drawn from the ecosystem by endotherms is converted to biomass (i.e., to grow tissue or produce offspring). In other words, endotherms have lower production efficiency than ectotherms.

Because of the high energetic cost of endothermy, endothermic carnivores require higher prey densities than ectothermic carnivores. In systems with low primary productivity they will be absent or rare. Even folivorous endotherms may be absent in habitats with extremely low productivity.

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