Wikipedia Reference Information
Homeostasis is the property of an open system, especially living organisms, to regulate its internal environment to maintain a stable, constant condition, by means of multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustments, controlled by interrelated regulation mechanisms. The term was coined in 1932 by Walter Bradford Cannon from the Greek homoios (same, like, resembling) and stasis (to stand, posture).
Homeostasis is one of the fundamental characteristics of living things. It is the maintenance of the internal environment within tolerable limits.
With regard to any parameter, an organism may be a conformer or a regulator. Regulators try to maintain the parameter at a constant level, regardless of what is happening in its environment. Conformers allow the environment to determine the parameter. For instance, endothermic animals maintain a constant body temperature, while ectothermic animals exhibit wide variation in body temperature.
This is not to say that conformers may not have behavioral adaptations that allow them to exert some control over the parameter in question. For instance, reptiles often sit on sun-heated rocks in the morning to raise their body temperatures.
An advantage of homeostatic regulation is that it allows the organism to function more effectively. For instance, ectotherms tend to become sluggish at low temperatures, whereas endotherms are as active as always. On the other hand, regulation requires energy. One reason snakes are able to eat just once a week is that they use much less energy for maintaining homeostasis.
The complete, up-to-date and editable article about Homeostasis can be found at Wikipedia: Homeostasis