Save this cute little guy: don’t stomp on moss

Posted on: 9:27 pm, December 19, 2013, by

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A new study found that pikas may be able to adapt their behavior to a warming planet by eating mosses.

The American pika is a small, herbivorous, conspicuously cute mammal related to rabbits and hares.

According to Center for Biological Diversity, “Rising temperatures threaten pikas by shortening the period available for them to gather food, changing the types of plants in the alpine meadows where they feed, shrinking the size of alpine meadows, and reducing insulating snowpack that protects them from cold snaps in the winter.”

Most directly, warming can also cause the animals to die from overheating.

But the study suggests, “They may be more flexible than we gave them credit for in terms of their ability to adapt their diet by eating mosses,” said Jo Varner, a doctoral student at the U. and first author on the paper published online Wednesday and in the February issue of the Journal of Mammalogy.

The researchers said that, based on their findings, it might be a good idea for people living in the Northwest to avoid trampling over the moss covering rockslides while hiking and to restrain from collecting it for horticulture.