Ochotona rufescens


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Ochotona rufescens
Species Authority: (Gray, 1842)
Common Name/s:
English Afghan Pika
Taxonomic Notes: There are three recognized subspecies: Ochotona rufescens rufescens, O. r. regina, and O. r. shukurovi (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. & Boyer, A.F.
Reviewer/s: Johnston, C.H. and Smith, A.T. (Lagomorph Red List Authority)
Ochotona rufescens is a widespread species that does not appear to be experiencing a significant decline.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Ochotona rufescens is a widespread species that occurs in the mountains of southwestern Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran (Smith et al. 1990).

O. rufescens is found between 1,900 and 3,500 m in elevation (Chakraborty et al. 2005).
Afghanistan; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Pakistan; Turkmenistan
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: A population found on the Small Balkan Ridge may be endangered due to isolation, but it is unclear whether this population is the subspecies shukurovi or regina (Smith et al. 1990). The subspecies O. r. shukurovi is found in the Great Balkhan Mountains and is isolated but does not appear to be threatened (Smith et al. 1990).

Population density of O. rufescens may reach 70 individuals per hectare, but this is variable depending on weather conditions (Smith et al. 1990).
Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Ochotona rufescens is most commonly found in rocky desert habitat, but may create burrow systems in fields where no stones exist. O. rufescens also burrows in adobe houses and walls (Smith et al. 1990). The species may be found in juniper forests and prefers habitats with vegetation cover between 30% and 60%, not higher (Smith et al. 1990).

O. rufescens survives on a diet of native xeric plants, such as thistles, Ephedra and Artemisia, creating haypiles to store vegetation twice in each year (Smith et al. 1990). O. rufescens also consumes agricultural crops, making it a pest to humans in some areas (Smith et al. 1990).

The reproductive rate of O. rufescens is high, with litter size averaging from 5.2 to 7.1, producing as many as five litters annually. The breeding season is long, from mid-March to late September, and young individuals begin breeding in their first summer (Smith et al. 1990).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Because Ochotona rufescens is considered a pest in some areas where it damages agricultural crops, it has been subject to control (Smith et al. 1990). The spread of agriculture also constitutes a threat, as habitat is converted to farmland, after which the pikas feed on crops, particularly by debarking trees in orchards (Smith et al. 1990).

A population of O. rufescens on the Small Balkan Ridge may be endangered due to isolation. It is also unclear to which subspecies this population belongs, as it is found between populations of O. r. shukrovi and O. r. regina (Smith et al. 1990).

O. rufescens is the only pika that has been domesticated for laboratory research, where it was once used in France and Japan, though this is probably not a future threat to wild populations (Smith et al. 1990).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: No conservation measures are currently in place for Ochotona rufescens.

Bibliography [top]

Chakraborty, S., Bhattacharyya, T. P., Srinvasulu, C., Venkataraman, M., Goonatilake, W. L. D. P. T. S. de A., Sechrest, W. and Daniel, B. A. 2005. Ochotona rufescens (Gray, 1842). In: S. Molur, C. Srinivasulu, B. Srinivasulu, S. Walker, P. O. Nameer and L. Ravikumar (eds), Status of South Asian Non-volant Small Mammals: Conservation Assessment and Management Plan (C.A.M.P.) Workshop Report, pp. 618 pp.. Coimbatore, India.

Gromov, I. M. and Erbajeva, M. A. 1995. The Mammals of Russia and Adjacent Territories. Russian Academy of Sciences Zoological Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia.

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.

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.

Citation: Smith, A.T. & Boyer, A.F. 2008. Ochotona rufescens. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 19 April 2014.
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