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The value of infrared thermography for research on mammals: previous applications and future directions



    1. Department of Adult and Continuing Education, Faculty of Education, University of Glasgow, 11 Eldon Street, Glasgow G3 6NH, UK
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  • Editors: RM & JS

D. J. McCafferty. E-mail:


  • 1Infrared thermography (IRT) involves the precise measurement of infrared radiation which allows surface temperature to be determined according to simple physical laws. This review describes previous applications of IRT in studies of thermal physiology, veterinary diagnosis of disease or injury and population surveys on domestic and wild mammals.
  • 2IRT is a useful technique because it is non-invasive and measurements can be made at distances of <1 m to examine specific sites of heat loss to >1000 m to count large mammals. Detailed measurements of surface temperature variation can be made where large numbers of temperature sensors would otherwise be required and where conventional solid sensors can give false readings on mammal coats. Studies need to take into account sources of error due to variation in emissivity, evaporative cooling and radiative heating of the coat.
  • 3Recent advances in thermal imaging technology have produced lightweight, portable systems that store digital images with high temperature and spatial resolution. For these reasons, there are many further opportunities for IRT in studies of captive and wild mammals.