Pika | Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures

Pika | Facts, Diet, Habitat & Pictures

Pika Overview


The pika is a small, round-bodied mammal resembling a miniature rabbit. It has short, soft fur that provides insulation against cold temperatures. Pikas typically have a gray or brownish coat, which camouflages them in their rocky alpine habitats.

Their small size, measuring about 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 centimeters) in length, contributes to their adorable and compact appearance. They have large, round eyes and rounded ears that give them a charming, expressive look.

Origins And Evolution

Pikas, small and herbivorous mammals, have an ancient evolutionary lineage dating back to the Oligocene epoch, roughly 34 million years ago. They belong to the family Ochotonidae and are part of the order Lagomorpha, which also includes hares and rabbits.

Fossil records provide insight into their evolutionary history, showing adaptations to alpine and rocky environments. Over time, pikas have developed unique features, such as short limbs and rounded bodies, suitable for their high-altitude habitats.

They are considered a relict species, as they are one of the few surviving members of their taxonomic family. Pikas' evolutionary journey highlights their resilience in challenging alpine ecosystems, where they continue to thrive despite their ancient origins.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Pikas are diurnal, meaning they are active during daylight hours, and they are known for their industrious and social behavior. They inhabit high-altitude, alpine environments, often living in complex burrow systems among rocks and boulders.

Pikas are herbivores, collecting a variety of plants during the summer to create haypiles, which they store for winter survival. They are territorial and use vocalizations to communicate with neighboring pikas. Despite their small size, pikas are hardy and have developed unique adaptations to cope with the extreme cold of their mountainous habitats.

Pika Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
  • Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)
  • Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
  • Order: Lagomorpha (Lagomorphs, which include pikas, hares, and rabbits)
  • Family: Ochotonidae (Pikas)

Pika Locations

  • North America
  • Asia
  • Eastern Europe
  • Western North America
  • Rocky Mountain regions
  • Alpine and subalpine habitats
  • Mountainous areas of China
  • Northern Asia
  • The Himalayas
  • Siberia

Fast Facts

  • Name: Pika
  • Scientific Name: Ochotona spp.
  • Habitat: Alpine, Rocky
  • Diet: Herbivorous, Grasses
  • Physical Features: Small, Ears
  • Nocturnal: No, Diurnal
  • Solitary: Territorial, Social
  • Unique Order: Lagomorpha, Ochotonidae
  • Lifespan: 3-7 years
  • Conservation Status: Varies, Threatened
  • Fun Facts: Hay Stashers, High-altitude Dwellers

Physical Characteristics

  • Color: Brown-gray
  • Skin Type: Fur-covered
  • Top Speed: Slow-moving
  • Lifespan: 3-7 years
  • Weight: Lightweight
  • Length: 6-9 inches
  • Age of Sexual Maturity: 1 year
  • Age of Weaning: 3-4 weeks

Pika FAQs

What is the main habitat of pikas?

Pikas are primarily found in alpine and rocky habitats, often in mountainous regions.

Do pikas hibernate during the winter?

No, pikas do not hibernate. They rely on stored haypiles of dried plants to survive the winter.

Are pikas related to rabbits and hares?

Yes, pikas belong to the same order, Lagomorpha, which also includes rabbits and hares.

Why do pikas make high-pitched alarm calls?

Pikas make these calls as a warning system to alert others in the colony of approaching predators.

How do pikas stay cool in their high-altitude habitats?

Pikas are adapted to cold climates and avoid overheating by staying in the shade of rocks and by being active during cooler parts of the day.

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