Watch: For some pikas, winter means fast food and saving energy

Plateau pikas forage through brutal winters, lowering their metabolism to survive. Credit: Qingsheng Chi

North American pikas survive their high-altitude winters by keeping warm in their burrows. Not so for the plateau pika (Ochotona curzoniae) on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Temperatures there plunge below negative 30 degrees Celsius, but they keep on foraging. How do they do it?  According to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they reduce their metabolism by about 30% to conserve energy.

The pikas also have another trick to get through the winters. They eat yak feces. It may not be the best meal, researchers say, but it’s fast.

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