Abstract Establishing the temperature dependence of respiration is critical for accurate predictions of the global carbon cycle under climate change. Diurnal temperature fluctuations, or changes in substrate availability, lead to variations in leaf respiration. Additionally, recent studies hint that the thermal sensitivity of respiration could be time-dependent. However, the role for endogenous processes, independent from substrate availability, as drivers of temporal changes in the sensitivity of respiration to temperature across phylogenies has not yet been addressed. Here, we examined the diurnal variation in the response of respiration to temperatures (R–T relationship) for different lycophyte, fern, gymnosperm and angiosperm species. We tested whether time-dependent changes in the R–T relationship would impact leaf level respiration modelling. We hypothesized that interactions between endogenous processes, like the circadian clock, and leaf respiration would be independent from changes in substrate availability. Overall, we observed a time-dependent sensitivity in the R–T relationship across phylogenies, independent of temperature, that affected modelling parameters. These results are compatible with circadian gating of respiration, but further studies should analyse the possible involvement of the clock. Our results indicate time-dependent regulation of respiration might be widespread across phylogenies, and that endogenous regulation of respiration is likely affecting leaf-level respiration fluxes.