Pallass pika

Ochotona pallasi

TAXONOMY

Ochotona pallasi (Gray, 1876), Kazakhstan. Three subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Mongolian pika.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

A generalized ochotonid, no strong external discriminating characteristics. Size and weight not available.

DISTRIBUTION

Primarily mountains of western Mongolia and isolated subspecies in Mongolia and northern China.

HABITAT

Habitat utilization varies across the species. The subspecies O. p. pricei usually occupies arid steppe environments and may construct burrows, whereas the other subspecies are more likely to live in rocky habitats.

BEHAVIOR

Just as the habitats occupied by Pallas's pika vary, so does the ecology of the species. The marked differences in reproduction, habitat, behavior, and vocalizations may indicate that O. p. pricei will ultimately be treated as a different species. Pallas's pika appears to be an intermediate species (with habitat characteristics between those of the obligate rock-dwellers and the meadow-dwelling burrowing pikas). In these intermediate species, and certainly true for Pallas's pika, the life history features more closely resemble those of the burrowing forms than those of rock-dwelling pikas.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Known to make large haypiles, although some populations store most of their winter cache under rocks.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Has a high reproductive rate; several litters may be born per reproductive season, and litter sizes may be large (one to 13 young per litter). Mating system may vary yearly depending on populations of local territories.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Common, species-wide. However, two subspecies are threatened with extinction: O. p. hamica (IUCN status: Critically Endangered) and O. p. sunidica (IUCN status: Endangered).

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

O. p. pricei has been considered a focus for plague and subjected to control efforts. This activity is no longer being pursued. ♦

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