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Living OrganismsAnimalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Lagomorpha / Ochotonidae / Ochotona / Species

Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika (Click photographs/illustrations for full picture & further details)

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INDEX - INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

APPEARANCE / MORPHOLOGY

LIFE STAGES / NATURAL DIET / PHYSIOLOGY

BEHAVIOUR

HABITAT & RANGE

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Specific Ochotona alpina information

  • Altai pika (B605.3.w3)
  • Ochotona ater (B607.w20)
  • Ochotona nitida (B607.w20)
  • Ochotona changaica (B607.w20)
  • Ochotona cinereofusca (B607.w20)
  • Ochotona scorodumnovi (B607.w20)
  • Ochotona sushkini (B607.w20)
  • Lagomys ater (B605.3.w3)

General pika information

  • The name pika originated from the Tungus of Siberia who attempted to mimic the call "peeka" of the local pika species. (B285.w5g)
  • The generic name of Ochotona is derived from the Mongolian name for pikas: "ogdoi". (B285.w5g)
  • Mouse hares or conies are alternative names for pikas. (B147)
  • "Pishchukha" is the Russian common name for all species of pika and some gerbils (Rhombomys opimus, Meriones tamareiscinus (Muridae - (Family)). (B605.3.w3)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

--

Names for males

--

Names for females

--

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General Appearance

Adult: 

General pika information

  • Pikas are small, egg shaped, rodent-like lagomorphs which weigh under 500 grams. They have rounded, relatively large ears, short legs, and a very short tail which is hardly visible. (B285.w5g)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • Ochotona alpina is generally a large pika. However, some of the subspecies are reported to be relatively small. (B605.3.w3)

Newborn:

General pika information

  • Newborn pikas are helpless and naked (B147, B287) or slightly furred. (B287)

Similar Species

Ochotona alpina specific information

Ochotona alpina may be distinguished from other pikas by its diploid chromosome number (42) or differences in morphology, vocalisations etc. as listed below:

  • Ochotona argentata - Silver pika
  • Ochotona collaris - Collared pika
  • Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika
    • The diploid chromosome number for this species is 40.
    • In the sympatry zone, Ochotona alpina has consistently larger measurements than that of the mature Ochotona hyperborea. Ochotona alpina is also usually less brightly coloured.
    • There are many skull differences between the two species; in Ochotona alpina:
      • the skull is longer and less rounded;
      • the orbits are more elongate;
      • the rostrum is significantly longer;
      • the bullae are deeper and narrower;
      • the caudal cranium is more strongly flexed downward. 
    • Ochotona alpina has a sharp strident whistle which is easily distinguished from the high pitched, very short whistle of Ochotona hyperborea.
  • Ochotona pallasi - Pallas's pika
    • The diploid chromosome number for this species is 68.
    • Ochotona alpina is similar in size to this pika but it has a darker coat in both summer and winter. It also has a wider interorbital width than Ochotona pallasi and the tympanic bullae are comparatively small.
  • Ochotona princeps - American pika
    • The diploid chromosome number for this species is 68.
  • Ochotona pusilla - Steppe pika

(B605.3.w3)

Sexual Dimorphism

General pika information
  • Male and female pikas are similar in size and can be difficult to tell apart from one another. (B147)

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References

Species Authors & Referees

Editor: Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103)

ORGANISATIONS

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Husbandry Information

Notes

  • --

Management Techniques

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Notes

Ochotona alpina specific information

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so the details below are taken from general pika information.

LENGTH
Adult:

General pika information

  • Pikas measure 120-300 mm. 
    • 120-285 mm. (B285.w5g)
    • 125-300 mm, with most species averaging around 200 mm or less. (B147)
  • Males and females are similar in size. (B147)

Newborns: --

HEIGHT
Adults and sub-adults: --
Juveniles: --

WEIGHT
Adult: 

General pika information

  • Pikas weigh 50-400 g
    • 50-350 g. (B285.w5g)
    • 125-400 g. (B147)

Newborns:

Ochotona alpina specific information
  • 6-8 g (B287)
  • One newborn Ochotona alpina was reported to weight 9.6 g. (B287)

GROWTH RATE:

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • Growth: young Ochotona alpina reach adult size in six to seven weeks. (B147)

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Head and Neck

Notes

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE
Adult:

General pika information

  • Skull:
    • In general, the head of pikas is blunt and short, and the skull is quite flattened rather than arched. There is also a constriction between the orbits. (B147)
    • Alpine pikas:
      • The skull of the Alpine pika is long and narrow but stoutly built. (B605.3.w3)
      • The incisive foramina are rounded and small, and completely separate from the foramina of the anterior palate. (B605.3.w3)
      • There are no fenestrae present in the frontals. (B605.3.w3)
      • The skull of the Alpine pika can be differentiated from that of Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika by the following features:
        • the skull is longer and less rounded;
        • the orbits are more elongate;
        • the rostrum is significantly longer;
        • the bullae are deeper and narrower and the caudal cranium is more strongly flexed downward. (B605.3.w3)
  • Ears: Pikas have small, rounded ears which are 12-36 mm in length. (B147; B285.w5g)
  • Nostrils: Pikas can completely close their nostrils. (B147)
  • Vibrissae: These are longer in the rock dwelling pikas, such as this species, than in burrowing pikas. (B605.3.w3)

Newborn: --

DENTITION

Pika general information
  • There are 26 teeth in total - two less than other lagomorphs who have one more upper molar on each side. (B285.w5a, B605.1.w1)
  • The dental formula of pikas is 2/1 incisors, 0/0 canines, 3/2 premolars, and 2/3 molars. (B147, B605.1.w1)

Incisors

  • Lagomorphs, including pikas, differ from rodents by having two pairs of upper incisors rather than just the one pair. The additional set of incisors are called peg teeth and are found directly behind the long pair in the upper jaw. (B147, B285.w5a, B605.1.w1)
  • At birth, lagomorphs actually have three pairs of upper incisors, but they quickly lose the outer incisor on each side. (B147)
  • The incisors are covered completely by enamel. (B147)
  • The upper incisors' roots are found in the skull's premaxillary bones. However, the length of the lower incisors' roots varies. (B147)
    • [Note: lagomorphs have teeth which grow throughout their lives. For this reason the portion of the teeth which is not exposed (not above the gum line) is strictly speaking not a "root"; however, it is sometimes convenient to describe it as a root.]
  • The first upper incisors have a cutting edge which is V-shaped. (B147)
  • The peg teeth lack a cutting edge. (B147)

Molars

  • Pikas have high crowned cheek teeth with no roots [the teeth grow continuously throughout life]. (B147)
  • The lower tooth rows are closer together than the upper tooth rows. (B147)

EYES:

General pika information:

  • Adult: Pikas have eyes positioned to give a broad field of vision (B285.w5a)
  • Newborn: Neonates are blind; the eyes open at eight to ten days. (B287)

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Legs, Spine and Tracks

Notes

General pika information
  • Pikas have short legs. (B285.w5g)
  • The hindlimbs are hardly any longer than the forelimbs. (B147)
  • They have five digits on each foot. (B147)
  • In rock dwelling pikas, such as this species, the claws are more curved and less powerful than those of the burrowing pikas. (B605.3.w3)

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Tail

Notes

General pika information
  • The tail of pikas is virtually absent at a length of 5 mm (B285.w5g); it is not visible. (B147; B430.w2)

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Skin / Coat / Pelage

Notes

Adult: 

General pika information
  • Fine, long, soft and dense coat with fur that covers the feet including the under surface. (B147, B285.w5g)
  • Most pikas are lighter ventrally than dorsally. (B285.w5g)
  • Most species have two moults per year with a brighter summer coat - often a yellowish red - and a greyer winter coat. (B147)
Ochotona alpina specific information
  • Summer coat of Ochotona alpina
    • Dorsum dull, yellowy, ochre-grey darkened by dark brown or black hair tips;
    • Flank rust-red tinge;
    • Ventrum pale yellowish ochre.
  • Winter coat of Ochotona alpina:
    • Grey coat with a tinge of yellow. (B605.3.w3)

Adult colour variations:

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • The summer coat may vary significantly in the different subspecies. 
  • In the sympatry zone, Alpine pikas are often less brightly coloured in comparison to Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika. However, there is much variation depending on the season and the geography.
  • Melanistic forms may occur in this species.

(B605.3.w3)

Newborn/Juvenile:

General pika information

  • Newborn pikas are hairless (B147, B287) or slightly furred. (B287)

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Notes

Ochotona spp. general information
  • Mammary glands:
    • Females have four or six mammary glands. (B147)
  • Female reproductive tract:
    • The uterus is duplex. The placenta is discoid, deciduate and hemochorial,with a mesometrial, superficial implantation. (B287)
  • Male reproductive tract:
    • Testes:
      • The testes are intra-abdominal outside the breeding season. (B147, B287)
      • During the breeding season they are found in folds of skin at the base of the penis. (B147)
    • Penis:
  • Scent glands: Pikas have scent glands, as do all lagomorphs. (B285.w5a)

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Life Stages

Notes

Notes:
  • This species is a rock dwelling pika rather than a burrowing pika. (B605.3.w3)
  • This species has a low fecundity rate, which is characteristic of rock dwelling species. (B605.3.w3)

BREEDING SEASON:

General pika information

  • In general, pikas breed twice a year in the spring and summer, and many species will have two or more litters per year. (B147)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • The following reports are regarding the breeding season for this species in particular regions:
    • Yakutia, USSR:  "mid Apr-?". (B287)
    • Mongolia: May to mid August. (B287)
    • USSR: "?-July". (B287)

OESTRUS/OVULATION:

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • Timing of oestrus: "end May-early June; Sojr-Charchan, Mongolia". (B287)

General pika information

GESTATION/PREGNANCY:

General pika information

  • Pikas have a short gestation period. (B285.w5a)
    • Rock dwelling pikas, such as this species, have a gestation period of 30 days. (B147, B287, B605.3.w3)
  • Embryo resorption may occur if the pika encounters adverse conditions. (B285.w5a)

PARTURITION/BIRTH: --

NEONATAL / DEVELOPMENT:

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • Den emergence: at 15 days of age. (B287)
  • Onto solid food: at 18 to 20 days of age. (B287)
  • Weaned: at 20 - 22 days of age. (B287)
  • Growth: young Ochotona alpina reach adult size in six to seven weeks. (B147)

LITTER SIZE:

General pika information

  • In general, rock dwelling pikas such as this species, have litters that are half the size of those of the burrowing pikas, with one to five young per litter. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • Litter size may vary seasonally in this species. (B605.3.w3)
  • In Western Altai: Alpine pikas had a mean litter size of 3.0 young in the first litter (range of 2 - 4 with12 litters studied); and 4.4 in the second litter (range of 3 - 6 with 8 litters studied). There was also a seasonal increase in litter size - the following figures are the mean number of young in a litter:
    • April: 2.5 
    • May: 3.2 
    • June: 3.6
    (B605.3.w3)
  • In Northwestern Altai: Alpine pikas had at least two litters with a mean number of 2.7 young in a litter (range of 1-5 with 23 litters studied). (B605.3.w3)
  • In the Western Sayan Mountains: mean litter size of 2.7 (range of 1 - 4 with 55 litters studied). (B605.3.w3)

TIME BETWEEN LITTERS / LITTERS PER YEAR: 

General pika information
  • Rock dwelling pikas, such as this species, have few litters per year. They may have two litters annually but often only one is successfully weaned (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • The number of litters per year decreases with increasing elevation:
    • Western Altai: 2 litters.
    • Northwestern Altai: at least 2 litters.
    • Western Sayan Mountains: 10% of females were recorded to conceive a third litter.
      (B605.3.w3)
  • There are various different reports for this species ranging from one to three litters per year, but with two litters per year most frequently reported. (B287)

LACTATION / MILK PRODUCTION:

  • Young are weaned at 20 - 22 days of age. (B287)

SEXUAL MATURITY:

General pika information

  • Young rock-dwelling pikas, such as this species, will first breed as yearlings. (B605.3.w3)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • It has been reported that both female and male Ochotona alpina do not reach sexual maturity in their first summer. However, another report stated sexual maturity for both sexes was 25 to 30 days. (B287)

MALE SEASONAL VARIATION:

General pika information

  • The testes are intra-abdominal outside the breeding season; during the breeding season they are found in folds of skin at the base of the penis (in lagomorphs, the testes are in front of the penis). (B147)

LONGEVITY / MORTALITY:

General pika information:

  • In general, there is high mortality as pikas are prey for many mammals and birds. (B285.w5a)

Ochotona alpina specific information: 

  • Average annual mortality rates of this species have been shown to differ between populations living in the alpine zone (41%) and forests (53%). Most pikas were one to three years of age. In the majority of populations, the magnitude of yearly fluctuations in density is not substantially different. (B605.3.w3)

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Natural Diet

Notes

NATURAL DIET:

General pika information

  • Pikas are herbivorous - they eat grasses, flowering stalks, and leaves. Pikas have a preference for those plants highest in protein or other chemicals important to them. (B285.w5g)

  • Pikas eat a range of vegetable matter: "in the summer and early autumn the animals gather grasses, sedges, weeds, and many of the large flowering and woody plants, sometimes climbing a few meters up in trees and out on limbs to cut twigs. The material is sometimes placed in exposed locations for curing by the sun"; many populations create haystacks to store food for winter. (B147)

Ochotona alpina specific information:

  • Young trees, including an important element in the ecosystem of the Siberian taiga, the Pinus sibiricus, are part of the diet of this species of pika. (B605.3.w3)

QUANTITY EATEN: --

STUDY METHODS: --

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Hibernation / Aestivation

Notes

General pika information

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Haematology / Biochemistry

Notes

HAEMATOLOGY: --

BIOCHEMISTRY: --

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Notes

METABOLISM (TEMPERATURE): 

General pika information

  • Pikas have a high body temperature. (B285.w5g)

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM (RESPIRATION): --

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM (PULSE/HEART RATE): --

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM (FAECES AND GUT MOTILITY): 

General pika information

  • Jaw motion: Pikas have a vertical or transverse jaw motion. (B147); pikas use a side-to-side jaw motion. (B285.w5g)
  • Coprophagy: Pikas produce two types of faeces, hard faeces like pepper seeds - small green spherical pellets - which are passed during the day; and soft faeces, sticky and dark green/black, passed at night. Faeces of the latter type have high a energy value and B vitamin levels, and are re-ingested. This behaviour, known as coprophagy, may have a similar function to the ruminant behaviour of chewing the cud. (B147, B285.w5a)

URINARY SYSTEM (URINE): --

CHROMOSOMES:

Ochotona alpina specific information 

  • Diploid chromosome number in this species is 42. (B605.3.w3)

MUSCULO-SKELETAL SYSTEM:

SPECIAL SENSES AND VOCALISATIONS:

Vocalisations:

General pika information

  • Pikas are known to be more vocal than other lagomorphs. (B285.w5a)
  • Rock dwelling pikas such as this species, tend to have only two vocalisations: 
    • A short call which usually contains one or two note squeaks, used for announcing their presence or warning others of predators;
    • A long call used by males during the breeding season which is "a series of squeaks lasting up to 30 seconds". 
      (B285.w5g)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • Long call: The "song" or long call of the Alpine male is the most ritualised and complex demonstration of vocalisations of this species. It is made up of three series of different calls which are given one after the other. A male will respond to playbacks of this call with the same song. This type of long song is characteristic of the following subspecies:
    • Ochotona alpina alpina
    • Ochotona alpina changaica
    • Ochotona alpina nitida
    However, it has not been heard from Ochotona alpina cinereofusca or Ochotona alpina scorodumovi.
  • Short call: This is a sharp strident whistle (except for the unnamed Alpine pika species of the Bajan Ulan Mountains) that is distinguished easily from the high-pitched very short whistle of the sympatric Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika.
  • Alpine pikas also use vocalisations during chases with conspecifics.
  • Alarm calls are immediately uttered upon perception of any threat, e.g. approach of persons, predators, etc. "They perceive danger and respond with alarm calls over a greater distance than most pika species".

(B605.3.w3)

Scent glands:

General pika information

  • Pikas have scent glands, as do all lagomorphs. (B285.w5a)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • Neck gland: like all the Eurasian species, and contrasting with the North American pikas, the Alpine pika has a scent gland on its neck, but no apocrine (cheek) gland. Both sexes mark the corners of the stones, which are located primarily close to the centre of their mutual home range. They do this by rubbing the stones with their neck glands. This behaviour has been seen to occur from April to December but the most well developed glands were found in male pikas in spring. (B605.3.w3)
  • Anal glands: The mass of the anal glands is greater in the male and is also larger during the month of August when haypiles are being built, compared to in springtime.
  • In other pika species, the two functions of scent marking have been said to be:
    • territory maintenance and possibly advertisement.
    • sexual advertisement leading on to mating.

    (B605.3.w3)

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Notes

General pika information
  • Pikas are unable to grasp plants with their forepaws; they eat with a side-to-side jaw motion and carry vegetation in their mouths. (B285.w5g)
Haying and foraging 

General pika information

  • In spring, summer and/or autumn (fall) (depending on species/location) many pika species spend much time "haying" - harvesting mouthfuls of vegetation which are carried back to the den for storage. They build up these stores, resembling piles of hay, and use them for consumption during periods of sparse vegetation, often over-harvesting so that it is a rare occurrence for them to run out of food. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3) 
  • Pika species living in areas where winter snow is common may also make tunnels in the snow to reach and harvest any nearby vegetation. (B285.w5g)
  • Some species continue to forage throughout winter rather than haying, because snows are uncommon. (B285.w5g)
  • Even at a fairly low population density of ten to twelve pikas per hectare, vegetation storage by pikas may be up to 30 kg per hectare. (B605.3.w3)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • The Alpine pika follows the typical pika behaviour of making hay piles. (B605.3.w3)
  • Haypiles created by Alpine pikas may provide winter food for domestic cows and horses and also native species such as ungulates or smaller herbivores:
    • Ungulates: many species will change their local distribution in response to the pika hay stores.
    • Siberian wapiti, Cervus elaphus sibiricus (Cervus elaphus - Red deer (North American Elk)) - in winters where there are particulary heavy snows, they often group in the habitats of pikas eating the hay from one haypile to another.
    • Rangifer tarandus - Reindeer - during snowstorms they come down from their alpine environments into the forest to eat the pika haypiles.
    • Domestic species - horses and cows may also feed on pika haypiles over winter.
    • Voles and shrews - Clethrionomys spp. and Sorex spp. respectively, are four times higher in areas where there are pika haypiles compared to the surrounding forest.

    (B605.3.w3)

  • Even at a fairly low population density of ten to twelve pikas per hectare, vegetation storage by this species of pikas may be up to 30 kg per hectare. (B605.3.w3)

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Parental Behaviour

Notes

--

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

Notes

Social

General pika information

  • The-rock dwelling pikas are often relatively asocial. (B605.3.w3)
  • It is rare that they interact and usually it is to repel an intruder if they do so. (B285.w5g)

  • Even in a pair of pikas which are contributing to a shared hay pile, they spend a large part of the day apart. (B285.w5g)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • This species lives in a family group made up of an adult pair and their offspring but this does depend on the season. Adult partners share mutual haypiles and shelters within the family feeding territories. There is no overlapping of the borders of these family feeding territories and they are reasonably stable from year to year. The actual home ranges of the family groups are more extensive than the feeding territory and they do overlap. (B605.3.w3)
Territoriality

General pika information

  • Pikas are highly territorial lagomorphs; both sexes use scent marking and vocalisations to maintain territories. (B605.1.w1)
  • In general, the rock dwelling pikas, such as this species of pika, have large territories defended by the individual or defended in pairs. 
    • It is rare that they interact and usually it is to repel an intruder if they do so. Even in a pair of pikas which are contributing to a shared hay pile, they spend a large part of the day apart. (B285.w5g)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • Adult partners share mutual haypiles and shelters within the family feeding territories. There is no overlapping of the borders of these family feeding territories and they are reasonably stable from year to year. The actual home ranges of the family groups are more extensive than the feeding territory and they do overlap. (B605.3.w3)
Population densities

General pika information

  • The population density of rock dwelling pikas is usually low at 5 - 25 per acre, and reasonably stable over a period of time. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • The population of this species has been reported as two to thirty pikas per hectare. (B147)
  • An unusual catastrophic drop in the density of the Alpine pikas occurred in the 1970s throughout the western Sayan Mountains; "density declined by more than an order of magnitude". The reasons for this were not clear. One suggestion was that it was caused by an epidemic "but it is difficult to understand how such a factor could have affected a vast territory simultaneously". It is thought that a contributing factor to this decline was that when the numbers of pikas became low, the remaining population was preyed on significantly by sables (Martes zibellina). As of 1986 / 1987, some areas which previously had high densities sixteen to seventeen years earlier were now completely lacking in pikas. It is thought that the insular structure of the habitat and the low reproductive rate of this species account for this phenomenon. (B605.3.w3)
Predation

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • This pika has been reported as important prey for some Mustelidae - Weasels (sables Martes zibellina (Martes - (Genus)); Mustela erminea - Stoat). (B605.3.w3)
  • Western Sayan Mountains: pikas make up to 87% of the scat contents of sables (Martes - (Genus)). The sable density is ten times higher in areas which have pikas.
  • Altai Mountains: pikas comprise up to 60% of sables' diets. 
  • Central Altai Mountains: it is rare that sables (Martes - (Genus)) eat pikas. Instead they concentrate on the constant supply of pine nuts from Pinus sibiricus. 

(B605.3.w3)

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Sexual Behaviour

Notes

General pika information

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Activity Patterns, Self-grooming and Navigation

Notes

ACTIVITY PATTERNS: 

General pika information

  • Pikas are agile and lively (B285.w5g)

SELF-GROOMING: --

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM:

Ochotona alpina specific information

  • On Hokkaido, this species of pika is reported to be active on top of the snow up until the snow is twenty to thirty centimetres deep; it then continues its activity by tunneling under the snow. (B147)
  • General pika information
    • Mainly active by day. Pikas are well-adapted to the cold and sensitive to even moderately warm conditions, therefore they tend to be active only during the cooler parts of the day. (B285.w5g)
    • Pikas may be active at all hours, in particular, early morning and evenings. It seems that they are less active on sunny days compared with cloudy days. (B147)
    • Pikas which live at high altitudes may be active all day, whereas pikas at warmer, lower altitudes emerge only in the morning and evening. (B285.w5g)
General pika information
  • Mainly active by day. Pikas are well-adapted to the cold and sensitive to even moderately warm conditions, therefore they tend to be active only during the cooler parts of the day. (B285.w5g)
  • Pikas may be active at all hours, in particular, early morning and evenings. It seems that they are less active on sunny days compared with cloudy days. (B147)
  • Pikas which live at high altitudes may be active all day, whereas pikas at warmer, lower altitudes emerge only in the morning and evening. (B285.w5g)

SPEED OF MOVEMENT: --

NAVIGATION: --

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Notes

  • The Alpine pika prefers rock and talus habitats although it is not found to inhabit extensive talus devoid of vegetation nor swampy montane tundra. (B605.3.w3)
  • In the overlapping ranges of the Alpine pika and Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika there is partial segregation occurring by altitude or by microhabitat:
    • The Alpine pika often occupies talus with larger stones due to the competition for shelter;
    • The Alpine pika lives at both higher and lower elevations in the Khangai Mountains than the Northern pika;
    • In Tuva, the Alpine pika lives at lower elevations than the the Northern pika. 
      (B605.3.w3)

General pika information

  • In general, most species of pika live in remote high mountains and wild country and are well adapted to the cold. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

Notes

Ochotona alpina specific information
  • They may be found in burrows under tree roots or in old moss-covered scree. (B605.3.w3)

General pika information

  • In general, rock dwelling pikas nest among rocks or fallen logs. (B285.w5g)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Notes

Ochotona alpina specific information
  • Areas of mountains bordering the Gobi Desert on the north (includes the Altai, Sayan, Khangai and Kentei mountains);
  • and then from the east and south of Lake Baikal eastward to the Upper Amur drainage (north west Kazakhstan, south Russia, north west Mongolia);
  • Northern Xinjiang, China.

(B285.w5g; B605.3.w3; B607.w20)

Note: Ochotona alpina cinereofusca and Ochotona alpina scorodumovi are found between the Argun and Shilka rivers. (B605.3.w3)

Sympatric with: 

  • Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika, although these two species are partially separated by microhabitat or by altitude:
    • The Alpine pika often occupies talus with larger stones due to competition for shelter;
    • Khangai mountains, Mongolia: the Alpine pika lives both below and above the Northern pika;
    • Tuva: the Alpine pika lives at lower elevations.

    (B605.3.w3)

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Conservation

Species variation

Notes

Currently recognised subspecies include:
  • Ochotona alpina alpina; also known as Ochotona alpina ater; Ochotona alpina nitida
  • Ochotona alpina changaica
  • Ochotona alpina cinereofusca; also known as Ochotona alpina scorodumovi 
  • Ochotona alpina sushkini 

(B605.3.w3, B607.w20)

NB: names in non-bold font are reported as synonyms for that particular subspecies from the reference B607.w20.

Notes:

  • "A distinct form of alpine pika (as yet unnamed) has been found in the Bajan Ulan Mountains on the shore of the Kerulin River in the Mongolian People's Republic. Its status is unknown." (B605.3.w3)
  • Ochotona alpina cinereofusca has been reported to be close to Ochotona alpina alpina in its short call characteristics and morphology. However, other features of its vocal repertoire are different to that of the typical Alpine pika. (B605.3.w3)
  • The sushkini subspecies was previously assigned to Ochotona pallasi - Pallas's pika. (B605.3.w3; B607.w20) However, it was subsequently reassigned to Ochotona alpina on the basis of the following distinctions:
    • the interorbital width of Ochotona alpina is more than in Ochotona pallasi;
    • the soles of the feet and the fur coat are pale in Ochotona pallasi but dark grey to brownish (depending on the season) in Ochotona alpina;
    • " the type locality of sushkini lies outside of the range of O. pallasi in the Altai Mountains."
    (B605.3.w3)
Former subspecies of the Alpine pika that are now considered as distinct species:
Former subspecies of the Alpine pika that has subsequently been reassigned:
  • The subspecies svatoshi has now been transferred to Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika on the basis that although this form is close to the Alpine pika in its short call characteristics and morphology, other features of its vocal repertoire are different to that of the typical Alpine pika. This form can be found in between the Argun and Shilka rivers. (B605.3.w3)

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Conservation Status

Notes

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE:

Pikas are important for the following reasons:

  • They act as prey for many birds and mammals. 
  • Alpine pikas (and also Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika) are the basic food for sables (Martes - (Genus)) and so play an important role in the ecosystem. For more details please see the predation section.
  • Haypiles created by Alpine pikas may provide winter food for domestic cows and horses and also native species such as ungulates or smaller herbivores:
    • Ungulates: many species will change their local distribution in response to the pika hay stores.
    • Siberian wapiti, Cervus elaphus sibiricus (Cervus elaphus - Red deer (North American Elk)) - in winters where there are particulary heavy snows, they often group in the habitats of pikas eating the hay from one haypile to another.
    • Rangifer tarandus - Reindeer - during snowstorms they come down from their alpine environments into the forest to eat the pika haypiles.
    • Domestic species - horses and cows may also feed on pika haypiles over winter.
    • Voles and shrews - Clethrionomys spp. and Sorex spp. respectively, are four times higher in areas where there are pika haypiles compared to the surrounding forest.

    (B605.3.w3)

  • Alpine pikas play a part in positively influencing the diversity and composition of the local plant community by:
    • Facilitating the plant colonisation on their habitat due to the organic remains of the haypiles stored on the talus;
    • The large accumulation of their pellets under their shelters promotes spots of nitrophilic vegetation.

    (B605.3.w3)

GENERAL LEGISLATION:

  • "Currently no species or forms of Ochotona are treated on any national list of endangered or threatened wildlife." (B605.3.w3)

CITES LISTING: 

  • There are currently no Ochotona species CITES-listed. (W354.April08.w1)

RED-DATA LIST STATUS:

  • IUCN - Lower risk/least concern. "Widespread species that does not appear to be in decline". (W2.Apr08.w37)
  • Isolated Mongolian montane populations may be threatened. (B607.w20)

THREATS:

  • Ochotona alpina nitida is an isolated subspecies and is thought to be possibly at risk, pending surveys of its range and population size. (B605.3.w3)
  • There are other isolated populations of this species inhabiting separate mountains found in the Gobi Desert, e.g. Ikhe Bogdo Ula and Adj Bogdo Ula. They are thought to be vulnerable but not currently endangered. (B605.3.w3)
  • "A distinct form of alpine pika (as yet unnamed) has been found in the Bajan Ulan Mountains on the shore of the Kerulin River in the Mongolian People's Republic. Its status is unknown." (B605.3.w3)
  • Other Alpine pika subspecies seem to be common throughout this species geographic range. (B605.3.w3)
  • In general, the status of many species of pika is hard to assess because they inhabit such remote areas. (B285.w5g)
  • Many species of pika inhabit very restricted ranges and so may be threatened by human environmental disruption. (B147)

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS:

  • The Alpine pikas play a part in negatively influencing the diversity and composition of the local plant community:
    • they are known to decrease the proportion of flowering plants;
    • decrease the store of seeds found in the soil;
    • and slow down the succession of the plant community by consuming young trees (including the most important element in the ecosystem of the Siberian taiga: Pinus sibiricus).
      (B605.3.w3)
  • Due to their remote habitat, most pikas "rarely come into conflict with human economic activity." (B147)

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS:

  • This species adapts very well to life in captivity if its mineral and vitamin requirements are met. (B147, B605.3.w3)

TRADE AND USE:

  • This species of pika has been considered as a potentially useful laboratory animal. (B147)

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