Pika Perseverance

Pikachu? More like pika-EWWW!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

In the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau of Southeast Asia lives the plateau pika – a little rodent the length of a butter knife. BUT plateau life is no small feat! Temperatures can reach negative twenty degrees fahrenheit, and food becomes HARD to find. Other small rodents from freezing places either get outta town or hibernate. But not the pika! What’s their secret?

Enter John Speakman from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and team! They filmed pikas living their best rodent lives for THIRTEEN years. They monitored the critters’ body temperature and metabolic rate to see how they weather the cold. 

Results? During winter, pikas save up to THIRTY percent of their energy – by moving less to reduce their body temperature! This way, they only make special trips into the cold! 

But what do pikas find to eat in their frozen habitat? Cameras revealed their shocking diet — YAK POOP-SICLES! Talk about “Fear Factor!”

Now we know how far our furry friends are willing to go to make it!

Winter is coming…and it STINKS!

Speakman, J. R., Chi, Q., Ołdakowski, Ł., Fu, H., Fletcher, Q. E., Hambly, C., Togo, J., Liu, X., Piertney, S. B., Wang, X., Zhang, L., Redman, P., Wang, L., Tang, G., Li, Y., Cui, J., Thomson, P. J., Wang, Z., Glover, P., Robertson, O. C., Zhang, Y., Wang, D. (2021). Surviving winter on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau: Pikas suppress energy demands and exploit yak feces to survive winter. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(30), e2100707117. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2100707118

Photo credit: Li Weidong