From: Ecological Society of America
Published August 1, 2017 09:50 AM

Adorable alpine animal acclimates behavior to a changing climate

As climate change brings new pressures to bear on wildlife, species must “move, adapt, acclimate, or die.” Erik Beever and colleagues review the literature on acclimation through behavioral flexibility, identifying patterns in examples from invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and fishes, in the cover article for the August issue of the Ecological Society of America’s (ESA) journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The authors focus on the American pika (Ochotona princeps) as a case study in behavioral adaptation.

Beever will explore factors that define the pika’s distribution on Tuesday, August 8 at the ESA’s 2017 Annual Meeting, held this year in Portland, Oregon.

“Pikas inhabit a vast and diverse geographic range,” said Beever, a researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Rocky Mountain Science Center in Bozeman, Montana. “However, they usually don’t like to travel far.”

American pikas typically live high on the damp, rocky slopes of North America’s western mountains, from the dry peaks of Nevada and New Mexico to the wet coastal mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Yet pikas are homebodies, rarely traveling a kilometer from their rocky abode. As a consequence, pika populations are often inbred to an unusually high degree.

Read more at Ecological Society of America

Image: Puff and lounge thermoregulation. American pikas can their moderate body temperature through posture (to some degree), squeezing into a fluffy ball, a body posture with minimum surface area, to hold in heat in winter (left), or stretching out the surface area of their bodies to cool down in summer (right). In recent years, pikas have been observed modifying their foraging habits in ways that may be behavioral adaptations to a changing climate. (Credit: J. Jacobson, from figure 4 of EA Beever et al (2017) Front Ecol Environ doi: 10.1002/fee.1502.)

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