The role of piloerection in primate thermoregulation

George Chaplin, Nina G. Jablonski, Robert W. Sussman, Elizabeth A. Kelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The insulating properties of the primate integument are influenced by many factors, including piloerection, which raises the hair and insulates the body by creating motionless air near the skin's surface. The involuntary muscles that control piloerection, the musculi arrectores pilorum (MAP), are mostly absent except on the tail in most strepsirhines, and are entirely absent in tarsiers and some lorisids. The absence of piloerection and the reduced effectiveness of pilary insulation in preventing heat loss affected the evolution of behavior and metabolic thermoregulation in these animals. In lemurs, this situation contributed to the use of positional and social behaviors such as sunning and huddling that help maintain thermal homeostasis during day-night and seasonal temperature cycles. It also contributed in many lemurs and lorises to the evolution of a wide variety of activity patterns and energy-conserving metabolic patterns such as cathemerality, daily torpor, and hibernation. The absence of functional MAP in strepsirhines and tarsiers implies the absence of effective piloerection in early primates, and the reacquisition of whole-body MAP in ancestral anthropoids prior to the separation of platyrrhine and catarrhine lineages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalFolia Primatologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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