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

Ochotona nigritia - Black pika (Click photographs/illustrations for full picture & further details)

 

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)

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 g. They have rounded, relatively large ears, short legs, and a very short tail which is hardly visible. (B285.w5g)
Specific Ochotona nigrita information

Newborn:

General pika information

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

Similar Species

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

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

General pika information

LENGTH

General pika information
Adult: 

  • 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

General pika information
Adult: 

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

Newborns:

General pika information 

  • Newborn pikas weigh about 9 g. (B147)
    • Range 4.1 - 12.7 g, depending on species. (B287)

GROWTH RATE:--

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Head and Neck

Notes

Note: There is little information on this species and so it is unclear if this species is a burrowing pika, a rock dwelling pika or an intermediate habitat type of pika. Information specific to the Forrest's pika has been included in the details below because it is still not known whether the Black pika is just a melanistic form of the Forrest's pika. 

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE:
Adult:

Skull:

General pika information

  • 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)
  • Ochotona forresti - Forrest's pika (of which this may simply be a melanistic form) is similar to the Ochotona gaoligongensis - Gaoligong pika in main characters and size of the skull. However it can be distinguished from this pika by the following features:

    • fuller skull profile;
    • shorter nasal bones with a narrower posterior;
    • mandibles have narrower condylar processes.
      (B605.3.w3)
  • Ochotona forresti - Forrest's pika (of which this may simply be a melanistic form) can be distinguished from Ochotona thibetana - Moupin pika by the following features:
    • the zygomatic arch is wider.
    • 70% of the Forrest's pika studied had violin shaped "confluence of the incisive and palatal foramina due to the abrupt constriction of the sides, whereas this constriction is not found in the Moupin pika".
    • "rectangular shaped posterior end of the nasals are broader".
      (B605.3.w3)
Ears:
  • General pika information: Pikas have small, rounded ears which are 12-36 mm in length. (B147; B285.w5g)
Nostrils:
  • General pika information: Pikas can completely close their nostrils. (B147)
Vibrissae:
  • General pika information: These are longer in the rock dwelling pikas, such as this species, than in burrowing pikas. (B605.3.w3)

Newborn: --

DENTITION

General pika 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 just slightly longer than the forelimbs. (B147, B430.w2, B605.2.w2)
  • They have five digits on each foot. (B147)
  • The feet are heavily furred on the underside. (B147)
  • In burrowing pikas, the claws are more straight and powerful than those of the rock dwelling 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)
Specific Ochotona nigrita information

Adult Colour variations:

  • --

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

Note: There is little information on this species and so it is unclear if this species is a burrowing pika, a rock dwelling pika or an intermediate habitat type of pika.

BREEDING SEASON:

General pika information

  • In general, pikas breed twice a year in the spring and summer, and many species will have 2 or more litters per year. (B147)

OESTRUS/OVULATION:

General pika information

GESTATION/PREGNANCY:

General pika information

  • Pikas have a short gestation period. (B285.w5a)
    • Rock dwellers have a gestation period of 30 days. (B147)
    • Burrowers have a gestation period of approximately 3 weeks. (B147)
  • Embryo resorption may occur if the pika encounters adverse conditions. (B285.w5a)

PARTURITION/BIRTH: --

NEONATAL / DEVELOPMENT: --

LITTER SIZE:

General pika information

  • In general, burrowing pikas have litters which are twice as large as those of rock dwelling pikas. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)
  • Burrowers: 1-13 young. 
  • Rock dwellers:1-5 young. 

(B285.w5g)

TIME BETWEEN LITTERS / LITTERS PER YEAR:

General pika information

  • Rock dwelling pikas have few litters per year. They may have two litters annually but often only one is successfully weaned (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)
  • Burrowing pikas: some species are know to have five litters a year. (B285.w5g)

LACTATION / MILK PRODUCTION: --

SEXUAL MATURITY:

General pika information

  • Three months (B285.w5a)
  • Burrowing pikas may mature and breed in their summer of birth. However, young rock dwelling pikas will first breed as yearlings. (B605.3.w3)

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

  • High mortality as pikas are prey for many mammals and birds. (B285.w5a)
  • Burrowers: up to three years of age, but usually only one year.(B285.w5g)
  • Burrowing pikas have a high annual mortality, with few animals living more than two years. (B605.3.w3)
  • Rock dwellers: up to seven years old. (B285.w5g) Their average mortality is low compared to the burrowing pikas. (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 place in exposed locations for curing by the sun"; many populations create haystacks to store food for winter. (B147)

QUANTITY EATEN: --

STUDY METHODS: --

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Hibernation / Aestivation

Notes

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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: --

MUSCULO-SKELETAL SYSTEM: --

SPECIAL SENSES AND VOCALISATIONS:

General pika information

Vocalisations:

  • Pikas are known to be more vocal than other lagomorphs. (B285.w5a)
  • Rock dwellers 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;
    • and a long call used by males during the breeding season which is "a series of squeaks lasting up to 30 seconds". Some rock dwellers rarely vocalise even weak calls. (B285.w5g)
  • Burrowing pikas have a vast range of calls:

    • Rapidly repeated soft short predator alarm call;

    • Long calls used by adult males;

    • Whines and trills;

    • Muffle and transition calls used by young pikas, which are thought to promote cohesion among siblings.
      (B285.w5g)

Scent glands:

  • Pikas have scent glands, as do all lagomorphs. (B285.w5a)
  • The two proposed functions of scent marking are:
    • 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
  • ikas 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 
  • 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)

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Parental Behaviour

Notes

It is not known whether this is a rock-dwelling or burrowing pika.

General pika information

  • In the burrowing pikas, the young may form a line behind an adult, usually their father, and follow. (B285.w5g)

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

Notes

Note: There is little information on this species and so it is unclear if this species is a burrowing pika, a rock dwelling pika or an intermediate habitat type of pika.

General pika information

  • Pikas are highly territorial lagomorphs; both sexes use scent marking and vocalisations to maintain territories. (B605.1.w1)

  • The rock dwelling pikas or talus dwelling pikas 

    • These 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)

    • The rock dwelling pikas have large territories defended by the individual (in North American species) or defended in pairs (Asian species). (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

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

      • Population densities of pikas in rocky areas do not usually reach more than 20 per hectare. (B147)

  • The burrowing pikas or steppe dwelling pikas

    • These pikas are very friendly, sociable mammals that live within family groups where they may play-box, sit in contact, nose rub and spend time socially grooming. (B285.w5g)

    • Communal dens house family groups which includes siblings of different ages. (B285.w5g)

    • The young may follow behind an adult, usually their father, in a line. (B285.w5g)

    • However, there may be aggression between members of different family groups, in particular, long chases of adult males occur. (B285.w5g)

    • Population densities of burrowing steppe dwellers are often much higher than that of the rock dwellers but they are also prone to fluctuate more widely. (B147)

    • The population density may be greater than 750 per acre towards the end of the breeding season but this may fluctuate greatly both annually and seasonally. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

    • The maximum density of some steppe pikas is reported to exceed 300 per hectare. (B147)

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Sexual Behaviour

Notes

General pika information
  • In general, it appears that pikas are monogamous. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)
  • However, in burrowing pikas the mating system may be flexible: monogamous, polygynous, complex (several male and female), and polyandrous adult associations have been observed side by side. This last relationship is rare in mammals, but in the pika two males from the same burrow may be seen alternately mating with the resident female and then sitting side by side or grooming one another, even while the female is in estrus - apparently an adaptation to maximize reproductive rates in face of harsh environmental conditions. (B285.w5g)

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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:

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

Note: Information specific to the Forrest's pika has been included in the details below because it is still not known whether the Black pika is just a melanistic form of the Forrest's pika.

General pika information

  • Most pikas live in remote high mountains and wild country and are well adapted to the cold.
    Pikas have become well adapted to living in rocky steppe and alpine habitats. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)
  • Some species inhabit moist forest areas, living under stumps of trees or fallen logs. (B147)

Ochotona forresti - Forrest's pika information:

  • This species occupies mountain slopes that face the sun. (B605.3.w3)
  • Elevation: 2600 to 4400 metres in the forest belt. (B605.3.w3)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

Notes

Note: There is little information on this species and so it is unclear if this species is a burrowing pika, a rock dwelling pika or an intermediate habitat type of pika. 

General pika information

  • Burrowing pikas dig burrows in open alpine meadow, semi desert or steppe environments. (B285.w5g)
  • Rock dwelling pikas nest among rocks or fallen logs. (B285.w5g)
  • Certain pikas are intermediate in their habitat use in that they burrow but also sometimes live among rocks. However their life history is closer to that of the burrowing pikas. (B285.w5g)
  • It is common for burrows to be shared with birds or small mammals. (B605.3.w3)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Notes

Specific Ochotona nigritia information
  • Piyanma, Yunnan. (B607.w20)

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Conservation

Species variation

Notes

Specific Ochotona nigritia information
  • "Apparently close to O. forresti; may be only a melanistic individual". (B607.w20)

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Conservation Status

Notes

Note: Information specific to the Forrest's pika has been included in the details below because it is still not known whether the Black pika is just a melanistic form of the Forrest's pika. 

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE:

General pika information

In general, pikas are important for the following reasons:

  • They act as prey for many birds and mammals. 
  • Haypiles created by pikas may provide winter food for domestic cows and horses and also native species such as ungulates or smaller herbivores.
  • By recycling soil, burrowing pikas have a positive contribution to ecosystem-level dynamics. 
    (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: 

Specific Ochotona nigritia information

  • IUCN - No information currently available for this species. (W2.Apr08.w56)

THREATS:

General pika information

General pika information

  • 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:

General pika information 

  • Due to their remote habitat, most pikas "rarely come into conflict with human economic activity." (B147)

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS: --

TRADE AND USE: --

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