This article is part of a Special Issue “Energy Balance”.
Energy homeostasis is achieved through neuroendocrine and metabolic control of energy intake, storage, and expenditure. Traditionally, these controls have been studied in an unrealistic and narrow context. The appetite for food, for example, is most often assumed to be independent of other motivations, such as sexual desire, fearfulness, and competition. Furthermore, our understanding of all aspects of energy homeostasis is based on studying males of only a few species. The baseline control subjects are most often housed in enclosed spaces, with continuous, unlimited access to food. In the last century, this approach has generated useful information, but all the while, the global prevalence of obesity has increased and remains at unprecedented levels (Ogden et al., 2013, 2014). It is likely, however, that the mechanisms that control ingestive behavior were molded by evolutionary forces, and that few, if any vertebrate species evolved in the presence of a limitless food supply, in an enclosed 0.5 × 1 ft space, and exposed to a constant ambient temperature of 22 + 2 °C. This special issue of Hormones and Behavior therefore contains 9 review articles and 7 data articles that consider energy homeostasis within the context of other motivations and physiological processes, such as early development, sexual differentiation, sexual motivation, reproduction, seasonality, hibernation, and migration. Each article is focused on a different species or on a set of species, and most vertebrate classes are represented. Energy homeostasis is viewed in the context of the selection pressures that simultaneously molded multiple aspects of energy intake, storage, and expenditure. This approach yields surprising conclusions regarding the function of those traits and their underlying neuroendocrine mechanisms.