In 1803, the French anatomist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire decided that the newly described echidna and platypus should be placed in a separate order, the monotremes, intermediate between reptiles and mammals. The first physiological observations showed monotremes had low body temperatures and metabolic rates, and the consensus was that they were at a stage of physiological development intermediate between “higher mammals” and “lower vertebrates.” Subsequent studies demonstrated that platypuses and echidnas are capable of close thermoregulation in the cold although less so under hot conditions. Because the short-beaked echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus, may show very large daily variations in body temperature, as well as seasonal hibernation, it has been suggested that it may provide a useful model of protoendotherm physiology. Such analysis is complicated by the very significant differences in thermal relations between echidnas from different climates. In all areas female echidnas regulate T b within 1°C during egg incubation. The lactation period is considered to be the most energetically expensive time for most female mammals but lactating echidnas showed no measurable difference in field metabolic rate from non-lactating females, while the lactation period is more than 200 days for Kangaroo Island echidnas but only 150 days in Tasmania. In areas with mild winters echidnas show reduced activity and shallow torpor in autumn and early winter, but in areas with cold winters echidnas enter true hibernation with T b falling as low as 4.5°C. Monotremes do not possess brown adipose tissue and maximum rates of rewarming from hibernation in echidnas were only half those of marmots of the same mass. Although echidnas show very large seasonal variations in fat stores associated with hibernation there is no relationship between plasma leptin and adiposity. Leptin levels are lowest during post-reproductive fattening, supporting suggestions that in evolutionary terms the anorectic effects of leptin preceded the adiposity signal. BMR of platypuses is twice that of echidnas although maximum metabolism is similar. High levels of thyroid hormones in platypuses may be driving metabolism limited by low body temperature. Monotremes show a mosaic of plesiomorphic and derived features but can still inform our understanding of the evolution of endothermy.