Ochotona pusilla 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Lagomorpha Ochotonidae

Scientific Name: Ochotona pusilla
Species Authority: (Pallas, 1769)
Common Name(s):
English Steppe Pika, Little Pika
Taxonomic Notes: There are currently two recognized subspecies: Ochotona pusilla angustifrons and O. p. pusilla (Hoffmann and Smith 2005). O. pusilla was formerly included in O. nubrica, O. forresti, and O. osgoodi (O. thibetana subspecies) (Hoffmann and Smith 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Smith, A.T. & Johnston, C.H.
Reviewer(s): Boyer, A.F. & Johnston, C.H. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Historically, this was a widespread species with regional populations that were "common" to "very numerous" (Ognev 1966). However, Ochotona pusilla has experienced a distribution contraction within historical time (Smith et al. 1990). No data could be found to characterize the current status of the O. pusilla at the global level, but this species still occupies a considerable range. Until definitive evidence suggests a threatened status this species is listed as Least Concern. Efforts should be made to determine the current status European populations of O. p. pusilla, which was characterized as "rare" by the Red Book of the Bashkir Autonomous Republic, Soviet Union (Smith et al. 1990).
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: This is a widespread species. Ochotona pusilla is known "from the upper Volga River and southern Ural Mountains south and east to the border of China," Kazakhstan, and Russia (Smith et al. 1990). The westernmost extent of O. pusilla is the easternmost edge of the European continent (Smith 1994). Despite its presence in Europe, it is routinely left off European mammal lists (Smith 1994). However, "the range of this species has contracted significantly in historical times" (Smith et al. 1990). The past distribution extended into western Europe during the Pleistocene, with a new specimen record extending its northern-most presence to Cumbria county in the UK (Fisher and Yalden 2004). By the onset of the Holocene, O. pusilla still occurred in Hungary. This distribution moved eastward, so that by the 10th century it occurred in the Ukraine and by the 18th century it could be found “between the Don and the Volga” and finally, “only east of the Volga” by the 19th century (Smith 1994). The cause for distribution contraction has been two-fold; 1) naturally occurring climate change from the Pleistocene to Holocene; and 2) anthropogenic changes like overgrazing and agriculture (Smith 1994).
Countries occurrence:
Kazakhstan; Russian Federation
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Population densities of Ochotona pusilla vary spatially and temporally and may vary according to habitat quality (Smith et al. 1990). Populations were described as "common" to "very numerous" for several regions within its distribution (Ognev 1966). The Red Book of the Bashkir Autonomous Republic, Soviet Union characterized some of the European populations of O. p. pusilla as "rare" (Smith et al. 1990).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Ochotona pusilla is a burrow-dwelling species of pika that occupies steppe habitat, "found primarily in moist soil which is verdant with thick grass and bushes" (Smith et al. 1990). As a steppe dwelling species, O. pusilla is an excellent indicator for the general health of steppe ecosystems (Smith 1994). This species of pika constructs haypiles (Ognev 1966). It is unusual "in that it is frequently nocturnal" and "vocalizations are usually heard at late dusk and through the night" (Smith et al. 1990). The total length of this species is 15.3-21.0 cm (Sokolov et al. 1994). O. pusilla has one to thirteen young per litter (Smith et al. 1990). The number of litters per year varies according to the age of the female (Shubin 1965). Adult pikas can yield three to five litters per year, whereas yearlings only produce one to three litters (Shubin 1965; Smirnov 1982). Females will mature in four to five weeks, whereas males become mature after a year (Shubin 1965). The reproductive periodicity will vary yearly according the weather conditions (Sokolov et al. 1994). Gestation is approximately 22-24 days (Shubin 1965).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the past, Ochotona pusilla was trapped for its pelt primarily to make high quality felt (Smith et al. 1990). Trapping for this purpose no longer occurs (Smith et al. 1990).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat modification is the likely cause for the recorded distribution decline (Smith et al. 1990). The species at one time extended west across the European steppes, and it may have been extirpated from this region due to agricultural intensification.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no known conservation measures in place for this species. The subspecies Ochotona pusilla pusilla has been characterized as rare by the Red Book of the Bashkir Autonomous Republic, Soviet Union (Smith et al. 1990). Research should be conducted to determine the current status of the European populations of this subspecies.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.4. Shrubland - Temperate
suitability: Suitable  
4. Grassland -> 4.4. Grassland - Temperate
suitability: Suitable  

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
2. Agriculture & aquaculture -> 2.1. Annual & perennial non-timber crops -> 2.1.3. Agro-industry farming
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends

Bibliography [top]

Fisher, C. T. and Yalden, D. W. 2004. The steppe pika Ochotona pusilla in Britain, and a new northerly record. Mammal Review 34(4): 320-324.

Hoffmann, R. S. and Smith, A. T. 2005. Order Lagomorpha. In: D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World, pp. 185-211. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Ognev, S. I. 1966. Mammals of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem.

Shubin, I. G. 1965. Reproduction of Ochotona pusilla Pall. Zoologicheskii Zhurnal 44: 917-925.

Smirnov, P. K. 1982. Reproduction of the pika Ochotona pusilla under laboratory conditions. Vestnik, Leningrad University 3(1): 17-21.

Smith, A. T. 1994. The last pikas and the last steppes in Europe. Species 23: 68-69.

Smith, A. T., Formozov, N. A., Hoffmann, R. S., Changlin, Z. and Erbajeva, M. A. 1990. The Pikas. In: J. A. Chapman and J. C. Flux (eds), Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, pp. 14-60. The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.

Sokolov, V. E., Yu Ivanitskaya, E., Gruzdev, V. V. and Heptner, V. G. 1994. Mammals of Russia and Adjoining Regions. Lagomorphs. Nauka Publishers, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Smith, A.T. & Johnston, C.H. 2008. Ochotona pusilla. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T15052A4490809. . Downloaded on 24 May 2016.
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