Archived Field Reports
(Xinjiang Institute of Environment Protection, Urumqi, China)
In 1983 and 1985 I collected a new species of Lagomorpha from the Tianshan Mountains, Nilka County, Xinjiang, China.Subsequently, the new species was named Ochotona iliensis Li et Ma, 1986.For more than ten years since the discovery of the Ili pika, we have studied its taxonomy, characteristics, habitat, distribution, population ecology, daily activity rhythm, reproductive biology and feeding habits.The results show that this is a special species of pika, and that it is also a species threatened with extinction.
Three type-specimens were identified during the initial phase of study and classification of the Ili pika:1)the holotype #83001, adult, collected from 3,200m altitude on 5 August 1983; and the paratypes, #85003, adult, and #85004, subadult, collected from 3,300m altitude on 13 and 14 August 1985, respectively. The holotype and paratype #85004 are preserved at the Xinjiang Institute of Environment Protection, Urumqi, whereas the paratype #85003 is preserved at the Institute of Zoology, Academia Sinica, Beijing.
The Ili pika is a very beautiful animal with generally bright coloration.There are big rusty-red spots on the forehead and the crown, as well as on the sides of the neck. The neck spots are connected under the throat.Hair color behind the ears and on the nape is pale. The Ili pika is rather large in size; the adult total length is more than 200mm, and the greatest length of skull is more than 45mm.In addition, the Ili pika is markedly distinguished from all other named forms of Ochotona by its ear and hind foot being the largest in length.
The incisive and palatal foramina are widely confluent, forming a single pear-shaped opening, and the vomer is completely discovered.There is not a small oval foramen in the anterior end of each frontal.The interorbital breadth amounts to 5.3mm, which is longer than 11% of the condylobasal length of the skull.
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
Habitat:The Ili pika is a talus-dwelling animal.Talus districts with altitudes of 2,800 Ė 4,100m provide their primary habitat.They live mostly in slightly sloping large rock walls with a great number of gaps or holes. Usually, gaps or holes in the rock walls serve as their dens (fixed or temporary).The slight slope areas provide places for foraging and other activities.
Distribution area:So far the known distribution area of the Ili pika includes only the Tianshan Mountains in China.The region of the type locality (Jilimalale Mountain) occurs in the eastern part of the range, where it winds along the north slope of Borohoro Mountain and Ilianhapilga Mountain, forming a belt-like zone which lies between 82o 21Ď and 87o 35Ď E.It also occurs in the north branch of Tianshan Mountains in Nilka, Jinhe, Usu, Shawan, Manas, Hutubi, Changji, Urumqi, and Toksun Counties. Subsequently, we have found the Ili pika in the south branch of Tianshan Mountain between 80o 55Ď and 84o 50Ď E, where it is distributed in Luntai, Kuqa, Baicheng, and Hejing counties. The south Muzate river valley in the southern Tianshan Mountains forms the boundary between the Ili pika and Large-eared pika (O. macrotis). According to our study, the area occupied by the Ili pika measures 13,500 km2 (450 ×20 - 40 km) and 5,800 km2 (230 × 20 - 30 km) in the southern and northern areas in the Tianshan mountains, respectively.Thus, the total area occupied is less than 20,000 km2, but only 17.05% of this area is suitable habitat (slightly sloping large rock walls) and/or is inhabited by the Ili pika, so that its area of distribution is very limited.
As shown by Smith et al. (1990), there are significant differences in biology and ecology between species of talus-dwelling and burrowing Ochotona. The Ili pika is a characteristic non-burrowing talus-dwelling species.As with most pika species, the Ili pika has the habit of storing vegetation in caches.Like most talus-dwelling forms, it lives at relatively low population density and its densities do not vary greatly with time, and individuals may live to relatively old age compared with burrowing species. It generally lives alone and at very low population density.The species is notably lacking in conspecific social relationships.Perhaps as a result, Ili pika does not liaison by voice.An important distinction with other pikas is that the Ili pika exhibits nocturnal activity, in addition to its diurnal activity.
In our investigations only 27 Ili pikas have been found.Taking into consideration the relative density of the species (0.87%) and the ratio of suitable habitat it occupies throughout its range (17.05%), we conclude that the total population number is approximately 2,900 Ė with only about 2,000 mature individuals.In addition to its low population size, the habitat it occupies is severely fragmented.According to the IUCN Red List Categories (1994), the Ili pika is an Endangered species of Lagomorpha.In fact, the situation faced by the Ili pika may make its existence even more threatened with extinction than Kozlovís pika (O. koslovi), of central China, which has been considered one of the most threatened lagomorphs on earth.
As the pika has a limited area of distribution andlow numbers, our data were obtained only by field observations, feeding trials in artificial conditions, and dissections and microscopic examination of hunted or captured animals.
During our extensive period of study, only one juvenile pika(in September) and three subadult pikas (in July) were found.Frequency of estrus is most common in early May, and at that time microscopic examinations of ovarian follicles showed a considerable number to be mature.It is possible that the pikas breed in early spring and produce first litter born in early June, with a second litter appearing in late July or early August.As the pikaís population density is very low and habitat conditions are very rigorous, perhaps some female pikas may not breed in any given year, and perhaps some females produce only one litter in a year.The sex ratio (males/females) is 1:0.8, and the population is comprised of 28.57% young and subadults Ė based on captured and observed pikas.
ARTIFICIAL FEEDING TRIALS
We raised Ili pikas in an artificial field habitat in Yining City (at an altitude of 660m), Xinjiang.For ten months observations were conducted under the condition of artificial feeding -- including capacity for eating, change of feeding habits, adaptability to low altitude circumstances, responses to infectious diseases, and so on.The results show that this alpine animal can adapt to a new artificial environment at low altitude, and can change its feeding habits from field plants to vegetables (celery and others).The species is gentle and docile, and it can thrive on a wide selection of plant material.In addition, the Ili pika was easier to raise and train than other animals.It seems that the Ili pika could become a new kind laboratory animal.
DAILY ACTIVITY RHYTHM
Under normal conditions, most pika species are considered to be diurnally active, and to be only occasionally active at night.However, we found that the timing of Ili pika activity was different from other known species (except the little pika, O. pusilla), based on our field observations.In addition, the daily activity rhythm of the Ili pika was studied with an automatic activity recorder refitted by us in a man-made outdoor environment.The main results were the following:1) the Ili pika has a characteristic of nocturnal activity; 2) for several seasons of observation, the mean rate of diurnal activity was 34.22%, and that of nocturnal activity was 47.42%; the static periods of activity are repeatedly alternative in a day; 3) seasonal changes of the active rhythm revealed that the main winter peak in activity was in the morning (9:00), and at other seasons the peaks were near midnight (Autumn 22:00 -- 2:00; Spring 23:00 -- 3:00). Generally, intermittent activity occurs after the main activity peaks; 4) the activity rhythm in May and that of other periods are significantly different; the reason for high activity rates in May could be because of breeding during that period; and 5) correlation analysis activity patterns with six independent variables showed that temperature was main correlative factor.
Li Weidong and Ma Yong. 1986.A new species of Ochotonidae, Lagomorpha, Acta Zool. Sinica 32(4): 375-379.
Li Weidong, Li Hounchun, Xamaridan Hamit and Ma Junjie.1988.First report on ecological study of the Ili pika (Ochotona iliensis) Abstract Symposium of Asian-Mammalogy, Beijing.
Li Weidong, Ma Junjie and Xamaridan Hamit.1994.A Preliminary Research on the Artificial Feeding of Ili Pika, Chinese Journal of Vector Biology and Control 5(2): 130ó133.
Li Weidong, Zhao Wei, Xamaridan Hamit, and Ma Junjie.1991.A Preliminary Study on Ecology of the Ili Pika and Its Relationship with the Plague Natural Foci, Chinese Journal of Vector Biology and Control 2(3): 202ó205.
Li Weidong.1997.An Endangered Species of Lagomorpha ----Ili Pika (Ochotona iliensis), Chinese Biodiversity 5: (supplement) 23ó28.
Li Weidong, Xamaridan Hamit, and Ma Junjie.1995.A Preliminary Observation on the Pelage and Seasonal Moult Order of Ili Pika (Ochotona iliensis), Chinese Journal of Zoology 29(2): 37ó38.
Li Weidong and Zhao Wei.1991.The Component Species of Genus Ochotona and Its Distribution Areas in Xinjiang, Chinese Journal of Vector Biology and Control 2(5): 305ó308.
Li Weidong, Li Hounchun, Xamaridan Hamit and Ma Junjie.1991.A Preliminary Study on the Distribution and Habitat of Ochotona iliensis, Chinese Journal of Zoology 26(3): 28--30.
Li Weidong, Li Hounchun, Xamaridan Hamit, Ma Junjie and Zhao Wei.1993.A Preliminary Research on Daily Activity Rhythm of Ili Pika, Acta Zoologica Arid Inland 1:54ó57.
Smith A. T., Smith H. J., Wang Xuegao, Yin Xiangchu and Liang Junsium.1998.Social Behavior of the Steppe Dwelling Black-lipped (Ochotona curzoniae), Acta Theriologica Sinica 6(1): 13ó14.
Smith A. T., Nikolai A. F., Robert S. Hoffmann., Zheng Changlin, Margarita A. Erbajeva. 1989.Life History, Status and Distribution of the Pika, Abstract of Papers and Posters, Fifth International Therological Congress: 199-200.
Smith A. T., Nikolai A. F., Robert S. Hoffmann., Zheng Changlin and Margarita A. Erbajeva.1990.The Pika. In Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status survey and conservation action plan: 14ó60. Chapman. J. A. and Flux J. A. C. (Eds). Gland. Switzerland: IUCN.
By: Dr. James (Skip) Lazell
This little-known species may never have been common. It was described by Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology curator Outram Bangs in 1895 from Liberty Hill, New London Co., Connecticut, a locality from which it has been extirpated (Godin 1977 and citations therein). Few people today, even ardent naturalists, are aware that this species exists, or that the common cottontail of New England, Sylvilagus floridanus, is an introduced exotic, or that the native cottontail is a declining and probably endangered species.
The New England cottontail is quite difficult to recognize unless one examines the skull. Introduced eastern cottontails often have a white forehead blaze, never present in the native. Conversely, the native species has a lot of blackish-tipped fur between the ears, making a prominent sooty patch on most individuals. The skull is very distinctive and resembles that of the marsh rabbit, Sylvilagus palustris, of southern United States.
There are a set of geographically replacing
rabbits with similar skulls beginning in the remote, lower Florida keys, and the
marshes along the eastern shores of Mobile Bay, Alabama, extending northward.
Our transitionalis is the last of the lot. Other named forms include hefneri of
the lower Keys, palludicola of peninsular Florida, nominate palustris from the
Gulf Coast to southeastern Virginia, and the recently named obscurus of the
Appalachians from Maryland to northern Alabama. Once there were members of this
complex in New York and Pennsylvania (at least), connecting obscurus to
transitionalis, but no one seems to have recent specimens.
The New England cottontail has been reduced to relative rarity and a discontinuous, spotty distribution (Johnston 1972, Hoff 1987, Brown and Litvaitis 1995). A recent putative account of the species, Chapman and Ceballos (1990), was largely based on data for the animal subsequently described as Sylvilagus obscurus by Chapman et al. (1992), and is not germane. Although several papers cited by Chapman and Ceballos do refer to aspects of the distribution of S. transitionalis (e.g. MacCallum 1986, 1987; Hoff 1987), these references were not used in preparing their distribution map, which is grossly inaccurate.
The detailed reports of Nelson and McDonough
(1980, 1981) were not noticed by Chapman and Ceballos. The range of the New
England form was even less accurately depicted in Chapman el al. ( 1992). Most
of the available data are from the "gray literature" - typescript photocopied
reports - and a large amount of new information has been collected since 1990:
e.g. Cardoza (1993), Barbour and Litvaitis (1993), and Brown and Litvaitis
A large body of work was done on the New England cottontail by the late Dr. Robert D. McDowell, based at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, in the 1970's and 1980's. Unfortunately, McDowell published little in his latter years, and grave uncertainty exists over how many and how well records were kept. Some of McDowell's coworkers, like James J. McDonough, have been especially helpful in reconstructing events. Drs. Jack Barkley and Walter Whitworth, still at U. Conn., and Robert Dubois, Connecticut resident, have or had access to notes and specimens. An effort should be made to retrieve the relevant information before it is lost in time, but no funding has been available.
I long corresponded with Steve Eabry, who formerly worked extensively with McDowell, and whose last known address was in San Luis Obispo, California. He kept up a newsletter on the New England cottontail, and a list of those of us who are interested. Eabry expressed doubt as to some of the activities and events attributed to McDowell by McDonough, Barkley, and others. I have not heard from Eabry in several years. Someone should go find out what is actually available and what happened.
It is reported that McDowell and coworkers introduced (or reintroduced) S. transitionalis to a number of small coastal islands. Johnston (1972) reported on a native population at Barn Island, Stonington, Connecticut. MacCallum (1986) reported introduction, in 1985, of the species from the Cape Cod population, (unknown, for example, to Chapman el al. 1992) to Grape Island, Boston Harbor. This stocking took and a good population was present four years later (Cardoza 1989), and is still there fide Cardoza - in 1999.
On 7?8 July, 1991, Glenn Mitchell, Wenhua Lu, and I found S. transitionalis on Hope Island, Rhode Island, in Narragansett Bay. Live animals were present and a skull was deposited at Yale Peabody Museum. No one now knows how S. transitionalis got to Hope Island, or if it is present on other Rhode Island islands.
The potential - and actual - role of small
islands in the conservation of the New England cottontail requires much more
study. Barbour and Litvaitis (1993) found small habitat areas less suited to the
native transitionalis than the exotic floridanus. They note "...New England
cottontails may become vulnerable to extinction if large patches of habitat are
Today one of the last areas where the native New England cottontail survives is on Cape Cod, on the wooded moraines of Sandwich, Mashpee, and Barnstable. The last records from Falmouth were in 1951. An apparently disjunct population hung on in Provincetown and Truro until about 1951 too, but has not been verified since. These records come from Cardoza's 1996 lists, that indicate no more than literature references - stories -- for all the rest of Cape Cod.
In April and May 2000, I contacted Litvaitis (NH), Cardoza (MA), and Brian Tefft in Rhode Island for updates. The situation in New Hampshire has degraded in the last five years; S. transitionalis seems to have disappeared from habitats it occupied at the time of the last published report (Brown and Litvaitis 1995). The situation seems no better in Massachusetts, but a quantitative assessment will not be made until 2001.
Tefft reports an apparent decline in Rhode Island too. In the 1970s, about 38% of cottontails identified by state personnel from hunter kills, road kills, and all other sources were S. transitionalis. In a 1997-8 hunter kill survey only 14% were the native species. In the six years preceding this survey 250 skulls were collected by all methods, including hunter, road, and other. Of these 82% were S. floridanus, 16% were S. transitionalis, and 2% were apparent hybrids.
The several wildlife biologists and I all agree that hunter kill probably underestimates S. transitionalis percentages for several reasons. Hunters typically work agricultural land where exotic S. floridanus is most common; hunters tend to avoid dense cover, especially scrub or bear oak (Quercus ilicifolia) thickets, where cottontails are generally scarce, but where S. transitionalis may predominate. Hunters prefer the larger, more conspicuous S. floridanus.
Any attempt to ameliorate the plight of the New England cottontail by adopting the standard response of closing the cottontail hunting season would likely prove counterproductive. Hunters kill disproportionately more S. floridanus than S. transitionalis, based on a comparison of hunter versus road kills. Closing the season, in my opinion (widely shared), would do more harm than good.
Two avenues seem far more appropriate. First, attempt to halt the decline of scrub oak "barrens" that may be the optimal habitat of S. transitionalis. Scrub oak barrens typically occupy poor soils ill suited to agriculture, but ideal for suburban housing developments, malls, and industry. This habitat is fast disappearing in southern New England. As well, wherever possible people put out the brush fires that are crucial to the maintenance of the scrub oak community. We need to secure whatever tracts of scrub oak remain that are large enough and isolated enough to allow fire regime maintenance.
Second, there are many coastal islands which could support populations of S. transitionalis today. Some currently support European rabbits (Sylvilagus "Oryctolagus" cuniculus): Cardoza (1998). However, the native seems able to compete successfully with the European exotic, for example on Grape Island, Massachusetts (Cardoza 1993).
Three islands, currently with no rabbits present, would seem immediately ideal: No Mans Land and Tobys Island in Massachusetts and the Island of Rose in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. I recommend that Sylvilagus transitionalis individuals be released on these islands as soon as possible.
Bangs, O. 1895. The geographical distribution of the eastern races of the cottontails (Lepus Sylvaticus Bach.) with a description of the northern hare (Lepus americanus Erxl.) in the east. Proceedings of the Boston Society of Natural History 26: 404-414.
Barbour, M.S., and J.A. Litvaitis. 1993. Niche dimensions of New England cottontails in relation to habitat patch size. Oecologia 95: 321-327.
Brown A.L., and J.A. Litvaitis. 1995. Habitat features associated with predation of the New England cottontails: what scale is appropriate? Canadian Journal of Zoology 73: 1005-1011.
Cardoza, J. 1989, 1993. Performance reports. Study XXIII: New England cottontail restoration. Mass. Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, Westboro.
________. 1996. File: mammal. Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westboro.
________. 1998. The European rabbit: history of introductions, and its status, biology, and environmental effects, with special reference to Massachusetts. Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westboro. 92 pp.
Chapman, J.A., and G. Ceballos. 1990. The cottontails. Pp. 95 - 110. In: J.A. Chapman and J. E. C. Flux, eds., Rabbits, Hares, and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
________, K. Cramer, N. Dippenaar, and T. Robinson. 1992. Systematics and biogeography of the New England cottontail, Sylvilagus transitionalis (Bangs, 1895), with the description of a new species from the Appalachian Mountains. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 105(4): 841-866.
Godin, A.J. 1977. Wild Mammals of New England. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Hoff, J.G. 1987. Status and distribution of two species of cottontail rabbits, Sylvilagus transitionalis and S. floridanus, in southeastern Massachusetts. Canadian Field Naturalist 101: 88-89.
Johnson, J.E. 1972. Identification and distribution of cottontail rabbits in southern New England. Storrs Agricultural Experiment Station Project 376, University of Connecticut, Storrs.
MacCallum, W.J. 1986, 1987, 1988. Performance reports. Study XXIII: New England cottontail restoration. Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westboro.
Nelson, P.T., and J.J. McDonough, 1980, 1981. Performance reports. Job I-9. Cottontail rabbit distribution and harvest investigations. Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westboro.
Tefft, B.C., 1998. Job IV-8. Rabbit and hare study. Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife, Wakefield.
by Li Weidong
Kozlovís Pika (Ochotona kozlowi Buchner, 1894) is a species of lagomorph that was first discovered in 1884 near what is now the border between Xinjiang and Xizang Autonomous Regions in China. Despite interest and concern by international scientists, it was almost exactly one hundred years later when its sign was again found, in 1984 (Zheng 1986). During June to July of 1999, the author took part in an expedition organised by the Hong Kong-based China Exploration and Research Society and the Arjin Mountain National Nature Reserve. While on the expedition, the author investigated the distribution and habitat of Kozlovís Pika in the east Kunlun Mountains inside the nature reserve, and obtained some preliminary information about the current status of the species.
The survey determined that the distribution of Kozlovís Pika was concentrated north of the eastern Kunlun Mountains, in the basin between Aqik Lake and Rabbit Lake [Tuzihu], extending southward to the valley of Moon-tooth River [Yueyahe] at the base of the Mount Muztagh massif, between 360 23í to 370 25í N and 870 12í to 880 48íE. In this area, Kozlovís Pika inhabited smooth-sandy soils of the basins or mountain valleys at elevations of 4,200 to 4,800 m. Kozlovís Pika is a characteristic species of this areas, with communal families and diurnal activity, which is typical of burrowing species of pikas (Smith et al. 1990). The vegetation in the area was mainly of the high-cold grassland type, consisting of Carex moorcroftii (Moorcroft Sedge), Stipa purpurea (Purpleflower Needlegrass), Stipa basiplumosa, Oxytropis falcata (Falcate Crazyweed), Androsace acrolasia (Rockjasmine), Potentilla bifurca (Bifurcate Cinquefoil), etc. Part of the river bank and lake shores community is composed of the high-cold shrub vegetation type. The transitional zone is covered by a high steppe vegetation type, including Myricaria prostrata (Creeping False tamarisk), Ceratoides compacta (Compact Ceratoides), etc. Among these plants, O. falcata, A. acrolasia and M. prostrata are favorite foods of Kozlovís Pika.
The number and local density of Kozlovís Pika were high in the area of its distribution. In the survey area, pika burrows averaged 44 per ha in the area near the road intersection at Aqik Lake [Aqikhu dingzikou], and 152 per ha in the area immediately south of Rabbit Lake, with a burrow utilisation rate of 28.9%. The burrows were generally relatively shallow, with a depth of only 30 to 40 cm. The tunnel is also relatively simple. The total length is only about 2 m, and two-to-three sub-tunnels may fork off at angles of about 1300.
In the range of Kozlovís Pika, there are also five other related species, comprising Woolly Hare (Lepus oiostolus), Ladakh Pika (O. ladacensis), Black-lipped Pika (O. curzoniae), Big-eared Pika (O. macrotis) and a pika species still to be identified (O. sp.) The habitat of these species is generally different from Kozlovís Pika. The Woolly Hare is wide-ranging, and often travels on the mountain slopes. The Big-eared Pika inhabits bare rock and scree at high altitudes. Ladakh Pika is found on high mountain peaks in alpine meadow areas. The habitat for the remaining two species is similar to that of Kozlovís Pika.
The survey was conducted during the breeding season of Kozlovís Pika. On 17 June, a female pika was found to have six small embryos, on which the nose, eyes and limbs had already formed. The female had eight nipples, the first pair in front of the forelimbs. This number of nipples differs from that for other species in the genus Ochotona. Another female was found to have four uterine scars on 18 June. A third female collected on 4 July was found to be producing milk and had eight uterine scars.
Kozlovís Pika would appear to be the species with
the longest history among the 25 species in the family of Ochotonidae. Fossil
specimens referred to Kozlovís Pika have been found in strata dated to the
Pleistocene in Zhoudoudian in China. In 1884, two living specimens were
collected, on the basis of which the species was described and formally named.
Currently outside of China there are fewer than ten specimens (two in the
British Museum, six in the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg and one in
Paris). There were no further collections for 100 years after the discovery,
and whether the species continued to exist came to be doubted by international
researchers. In 1984 the distribution of Kozlovís Pika was rediscovered when
seven specimens were found serendipitously in the region of Aqik Lake during
large-scale investigations organised by the Xinjiang Environmental Protection
Bureau for establishment of the Arjin Mountain Nature Reserve (Zheng 1986). In
1988, Yuan Guoying of the Xinjiang Environmental Research Institute found
another distribution area and collected two specimens. In 1989, as part of the
authorís research on the composition and distribution of the genus Ochotona, a
specimen of Kozlovís Pika was found in the collection of the Prevention Medical
Research Institute of Xinjiang. This specimen was collected at the juncture of
the Kunlun and Kala Mountain ranges. Unfortunately, it previously had been
misidentified as a Ladakh Pika (Li and Zhao 1991).
On the basis of these collections, the known distribution of Kozlovís Pika is concentrated in three places: 1) The Valley of the Winds, where the type specimens were collected (the exact location is not clear, but it is conjectured to be at the central or west Kunlun Mountains*); 2) the juncture of the Kala and Kunlun Mountains, which is located south-east of Mount Kongke; and 3) in the Arjin Mountain Nature Reserve, including the areas verified in 1984, 1988 and during the current survey. During the present investigation, it was verified that the distribution is nearly continuous between Aqik Lake, Moon-tooth River and Rabbit Lake. The distance between these three limits is 800 km east to west, running parallel to the Kala-Kunlun Mountains, where the distribution of Kozlovís Pika is limited and discontinuous.
It appears that Kozlovís Pika represents the first branch on the phylogenetic tree of the Ochotona subgenus. Among 22 morphological properties, Kozlovís Pika has the ancestral condition in 21, differing notably from all other extant species (Yu et al. 1992; note however, that more recent molecular analyses may place koslowi closer to O. himilayana and O. ladacensis; Yu, Ph. D. thesis). The limited distribution area and ancestral skull properties suggests that Kozlovís Pika may be an ancestral species that is in decline. Because the distribution of the species is so limited, a 1989 American expedition and a 1992 expedition (including Nikolai Formozov, a member of the IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group and professor at Moscow University) were unable to find Kozlovís Pika during explorations in the Kunlun Mountains (Smith 1995). Kozlovís Pika is listed as endangered in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Mammals (IUCN 1996), on the basis that the species is so restricted in geographic area and is comprised of only relatively few fragmented populations. In 1998 the species was also listed in the Red Book of Chinaís Endangered Mammals (Wang 1998). Because of its endangered status, scholars from all over the world have appealed for more research and protection of this ancient species. The IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group has identified Kozlovís Pika as among those species in need of additional protection and research in its Conservation Action Plan (Chapman and Flux 1990).
Since then, there has been little progress on Kozlovís Pika until the present research. Collection of this preliminary information was made possible only during a field survey of Chiru (Pantholops hodgsoni). Strengthened international co-operation is needed to protect this rare animal, unique in the world.
Chapman, J.A. and J. E. C. Flux (eds.). 1990. Rabbits, hares and pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.
IUCN. 1996. 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened
Animals. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.
Li W and W Zhao. 1991. The component species of the Genus Ochotona and its distribution areas in Xinjiang. Chinese Journal of Vector biology and Control 2:305-308.
Smith, A. T. 1995. Lagomorph Specialist Group: The status of Koslovís Pika. Species 23:68-69.
Smith, A. T., N. A. Formozov, R. S. Hoffmann, and Zheng C. 1990. The Pikas. Pp. 14 Ė 60. In: Rabbits, hares and pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. Chapman, J.A. and Flux, J.E.C. (eds.). IUCN: Gland, Switzerland.
Wang S. 1999. China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals: Mammalia. Science Press: Beijing.
Yu, N., Zheng C. and Feng Z. 1992. The phylogenetic analysis of the Subgenus Ochotona of China. Acta Theriologica Sinica 12:255-266.
Zheng C. 1986. Recovery of Koslovís pika (Ochotona koslowi Buchner) in the Kunlun Mountains of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous region, China. Acta Theriologica Sinica 5:285.
* Editors note: Prejevalskyís own recollection
may shed additional light on this point: ďThe flora of the eastern half of the
[Valley of the Winds], as far as the defile of the Zaisan-saitu generally,
assimilates with that of Tsaidam; that of the western half, with northern
Tibet. The fauna of this valley and adjacent tracts is poor. ľNear the pass
leading to the Cherchen defile, we came across marmot burrows, and large numbers
of a new species of alpine hare.Ē The Orography of Northern Tibet: Described by
General Prejevalsky in ĎA Winterís Excursion from Gass.í Published as
Supplementary Papers, Royal Geographical Society, (1890) Vol. 3: Part 1: pp.
58-86. Trans. By E. Delmar Morgan. Pg. 72. The term Ďalpine hareí is used
elsewhere by Prejevalskyís translator for the ĎOgotona.í This would suggest
that the species was first found nearly due north of the area surveyed in this
Rediscovery of the Italian hare (Lepus corsicanus): Species
distinction and evolutionary relationships as described by mitochondrial DNA
Istituto Nazionale per la Fauna
The taxonomic status of the Italian hare (Lepus corsicanus) has been uncertain since its first description by W.E. de Winton in 1898. The distribution range of the species has contracted severely during the last decades due to over-hunting and restocking with non-indigenous brown hares (L. europaeus) in central-southern Italy and Sicily. Recently scanty populations of Italian hares were rediscovered, and samples available for morphologic and molecular analyses were collected. Nucleotide sequences of the mtDNA control-region and cytochrome b indicate that L.corsicanus is a phylogenetically distinct species, which can be identified by concordant morphologic and mtDNA traits. It seems to be reproductively isolated and apparently does not hybridize with sympatric brown hares. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that Italian and brown hares are not closely related sister taxa, but they belong to distinct evolutionary lineages which dispersed in western Europe in different periods, during early Pleistocene. The Italian hare probably differentiated in isolated refuges in southern Italy during the last glaciation. Comparative analyses of population genetic data suggest that hares have had different demographic histories during the Pleistocene, which resulted in phylogeographic structuring in Italian, but not in brown and mountain (L. timidus) hares. The Italian hare is an endangered endemic and needs urgent conservation efforts. The many conservation problems are generated by over-hunting and massive releases in peninsular Italy of brown hares of central European origins. Current distribution of the Italian hare is extremely fragmented in central and southern Italy. Populations survive at low density mainly in protected areas and National Parks, where the species has managed to escape competition with introduced brown hares and over-hunting. Although we have not detected cases of mtDNA introgression among Italian and brown hares and, consequently, hybridization may not be a threat to the survival of L.corsicanus in central and southern Italy, strict prohibition of restocking with brown hares should be enforced, at least in selected priority areas. Despite intensive releases of brown hares during the last 20 years, field surveys have shown that hares of Sicily belong only to L.corsicanus. It is therefore possible that the brown hare is not fitted to the peculiar conditions of Sicily, and it can not survive in the Mediterranean-type climate and habitats of the island. Although Sicilian populations of L. corsicanus are rather widespread and consistent, conservation measures should be enforced in order to prevent the releasing of brown hares in the island.
(This is a summary from the paper: M. Pierpaoli, F. Riga, V. Trocchi, and E. Randi. 1999. Species distinction and evolutionary relationships of the Italian hare (Lepus corsicanus) as described by mitochondrial DNA sequencing. Molecular Ecology 8:1805-1817).
Caprolagus in Nepal
Since November 1993 (Nic Peet, Professor A Watkinson and myself) have been involved in a collaborative project with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal. This project ( Tall grassland habitat: management for biodiversity conservation and sustainable utilisation ) has been funded by the UK Darwin Initiative, the Natural Environment Research Council, FFI, the Sarnia Trust, the Royal Society, ITNC and Mr Christopher Cadbury.
The project has:
As mentioned above, data were generated for a range of tall grass dependent species in addition to Hispid hares. The results for hispids showed that they were found in tall grasslands in 2 of the 4 Terai protected areas, namely in Royal Chitwan National Park and Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve, but not in Royal Bardia National Park, where they have previously been recorded (Oliver 1985). In Royal Chitwan N.P.animals were found in four of fifty 8.5 m x 8.5 m quadrats surveyed in the grasslands and in Suklaphanta in 14 of 50 quadrats. Hispids were recorded in plant assemblages dominated by the tall perennial grasses Narenga porphyrocoma and Saccharum spontaneum in Chitwan. In Suklaphanta they were most abundant in grassland dominated by Imperata cylindrica, where there was a significant tall grass species as a sub-dominant (eg Saccharum procerum or Narenga porphyrocoma), and were also found in Mixed Imperata -Narenga swards and associations dominated by N. porphyrocoma. The results of pre- burn surveys support earlier findings by Bell & Oliver, ie. that the carrying capacity of hispids in these protected areas is determined by the amount of tall grassland left unburned during these deliberate dry season burning operations (which usually include all available grasslands).
The recommendations arising from this research will be that for the smaller bodied, tall grass dependent species like hispid hares, a pattern of controlled rotational burning is required if the species is to survive within its remaining fragmented distribution across a few protected areas.
We are currently seeking funding to a) continue
the experimental plot monitoring over a longer time period, b) set up similar
exptl. plots in a broader range of tall grass associations and c) extend the
classification and experimental work to Assam where Protected areas contain a
fuller range of grazing guild mammal species endemic to these grasslands.
Several papers describing this research are in the final stages of preparation
for submission to journals and a copies of these and the any other reports
arising from this work will be sent to the Chair of the LSG.
In a paper that should appear in the Sept (Vol 28) of Animal Genetics we report that 6 polymorphic microsatellite markers developed for the European wild rabbit also amplify with 20 other lagomorph species (representing 9 lagomorph genera). These species are Lepus americanus, L.europaeus, L.timidus, Lepus californicus, Lepus capensis, Lepus saxatilis, L. townsendii, Caprolagus hispidus, Romerolagus diazi, Sylvilagus brasiliensis, S. transitionalis, S. floridanus, S. palustris, S. aquaticus, S. audubonii, Brachylagus idahoensis, Bunolagus monticularis, Pronolagus crassicaudatus, P. rupestris and Ochotona princeps.
These new markers will have important application in:
a) the conservation biology of endangered
lagomorphs eg in helping to determine the extent of genetic variation
within/between isolated populations of a species, and
We would be very happy to try these primers on
other lagomorph species if colleagues can send us material (we can extract DNA
from a variety of materials including very small pieces of dry skin). Please
eńmail/fax me for details.
Subject: RHD in Europe
As LSG members will be aware, RHD has spread through European wild rabbit populations across Europe (mainly through spread of the disease from infected domestic rabbits) since the disease was first described in domestic rabbits in the mid-1980s. Whilst countries outside Europe have become excited by the prospects of a new control agent for introduced populations, the disease is having considerable consequences for biodiversity within Europe. For example, marked declines in numbers of rabbits are reported in the species ancestral home on the Iberian peninsular where it is preyed upon by over 40 different vertebrate predator species including endangered species like the Spanish lynx and Imperial eagle.
In the UK, RHD was first reported in domestic rabbits in 1992 and in wild populations in 1994. By Autumn 1996 it had spread to 16 counties. The European rabbit plays an important role in maintaining biodiversity in the UK, both as a prey item for rare species such as polecats, wild cats and red kites, and through its grazing/scraping activities which produce a short speciesńrich sward in heathland, sandńdune and chalk downland habitats. The latter habitats are also vital for reproduction in a number of rare invertebrates (eg various butterflies) as well as species like the stone curlew.
With funding from the Natural Environment Research Council we (Paul Dolman, Roger Trout) have set up baseline monitoring of rabbit populations and vegetation height at 10 sites across England and Wales which are important for biodiversity conservation. We are collating these data with existing databases on rare fauna/flora at each site in order to assess the impact of RHD when it appears at these sites.
We are still in position to be able to study the
epidemiology of the disease in the UK since some areas (such as our individually
tagged, long-term study rabbit population) are as yet unaffected. However, it is
proving very difficult to find funding for such research.
I review the current knowledge available on exotic lagomorph species in Argentina. The European hare (Lepus europaeus) and the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) have been introduced in South America, where Chile and Argentina have extensive populations of both species. The European hare was introduced successfully in Argentina in the late 19th century, and it is the most widespread lagomorph species -- occupying practically all the country. The European rabbit was first introduced in Chile and eventually invaded the southern parts of the Argentinean Patagonia where it started a process of geographic dispersion and increased in abundance and distribution. It was also introduced in Tierra del Fuego island. In many areas hares and rabbits compete with domestic stock for grazing, and they damage crops, orchards and forestry. although the damage from these species is obvious, there are almost no quantitative data available which analyze their effects under different land and livestock management regimes. On the other hand, the European hare is the most important game animal in Argentina where more than 6 million hares are shot annually for their meat, which is exported to Europe. Pelts, furs, and live animals for restocking Old World hunting areas are shipped abroad. The rabbit also is a game species, but not as important as the hare, due principally to their restrained geographic distribution. In all cases, the hunting of these species has been sustainable through luck rather than management design.
by Toshimi Ichikawa
Help me! Help me! I certainly heard the pikaís voice. It was on a rock staring back at me. How sad and serious its lovely round eyes seemed to be! While standing on the rock talus near Lake Shikaribetsu, I swore to them I would surely protect them.
It was 1995. The Hokkaido prefecture government had a plan to construct the Shihoro Highlands Road in order to connect Lake Shikaribetsu to Shihoro town. The road was first planned 30 years ago to aid in putting out forest fires. Because the road goes through the Daisetsuzan National Park, one of the last wilderness areas in Japan, many nature conservation organizations developed campaigns to stop the road construction. The government was obliged to change the route a few times. Eventually they decided to dig a tunnel under the mountains where the pikas live. The Environmental Agency approved the change in May 1995. They thought a tunnel would not harm the wildlife. But, how could they extinguish fires from the tunnel? Now it was obvious that all they wanted was a road to connect resort areas in the central part of Hokkaido Island. I heard someone who had been against the road construction for a long time sighing with desperation and resignation after the approval.
Seven women including me gathered together. We believed that a tunnel will be more harmful to pikas because of heat and car fumes. If they really were to construct a road, pikas in the area could become extinct. We would like to encourage the organizations to stop it. How could we do that? We could make many post cards of pikas. As pikas are so cute, when people see them, they would then recognize what is happening in the pikaís habitat in the National Park. Why donít we start a new campaign? We made arrangements and started the Pika Fan Club in July 1995, two months after the approval.
Japanese pika, Ochotona hyperborea yesoensis, is a subspecies of the
northern pika O. hyperborea, and inhabits only Hokkaido Island. They
originated in Siberia and passed through Sakhalin to Hokkaido in the Ice Age on
land bridges which had formed due to a drop in the sea level between Hokkaido
Island and the Eurasian continent. After the end of the Ice Age, as it was
getting warmer, they went upward to a higher part of the mountains for they
can't live without cool, clean air. Since then they have survived; they are
called "Relics of the Ice Age."
Pikas live among boulders on talus slopes in mountain areas such as Daisetsu Mountains or Hidaka Mountains. In Hokkaido, alpine plants usually inhabit areas over 1700 to 2290 meters high, and sub?alpine plants inhabit areas from 1200 meters high. Japanese pikas usually inhabit areas over 1500 meters high, so it is a mystery that there are big habitats of pikas and alpine plants in the area around Lake Shikaribetsu, although the altitude is only 800 meters. One reason is that the mountains are made of rocks, and in summer, hot air gets cool as it goes under the rocks from the upper side of the mountains downward, and the cool wind blows out of vents in the rocks. Moreover, we believe there is frozen mud under the rocks.
Pikas and their habitats are very precious scientifically and culturally. However, the range of the Japanese pika is restricted to the mountain areas in Hokkaido, and the pika requires rock?strewn slopes and cool temperatures in summer. Since its geographic range is small, and its habitat tolerance is narrow, it is vulnerable to extinction. So we are afraid it might be threatened with extinction if the government were to continue to develop lands around its habitat. This is why we, the Pika Fan Club, are aiming to get Japanese pikas designated as an endangered species and a national natural monument.
As we were amateurs when we started the Pika Fan Club, we needed to study about the pikas ourselves, while at the same time enlightening other people. Fortunately Dr. Takeo Kawamichi, a specialist on pikas and a member of the IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group, and Mr. Nozomu Kojima, who started studying pikas at that time, gave us a lot of information and cooperated with us. We have been observing the ecology of pikas for more than four years, recording the behavior of pikas and their habitats with two video cameras. We wrote a script and dubbed it by ourselves. Thus we made an original video tape, "The World of Pikas." Yumiko Enda, one of our company, created a handmade stuffed toy pika. It is as big as a real pika, and it is so cute that people love it very much. She has made over 1700 of them. We have been publishing the quarterly Pika News Letter (in Japanese) and selling the video tapes, post cards, stuffed pikas, calendars and so on. Now we have more than 2000 members, who are advocates of Japanese pikas and wilderness in Hokkaido.
On 26 August 1996, one year after we started our club, 21 plaintiffs brought a suit against the Hokkaido prefecture government claiming it was illegal to expend public funds on the construction on this road. It was obvious that this road construction would destroy the ecosystem and species in the national park. The plaintiffs insisted that the road plan violated the mandates of the Convention on Biological Diversity -- of which Japan is a signatory country.
September 1998, we invited Dr. Andrew Smith, an authority on pikas and the chair
of the IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group, to the city of Sapporo in
Hokkaido. He gave us a wonderful lecture about pikas in the world. He also
inspected two habitats of pikas. When he went to the habitat near Lake
Shikaribetsu, he received considerable publicity in the media. He told them
that he could not believe Japanese people would construct roads in national
parks even today, and that wildlife in national parks should be conserved. I
think his comment as well as big public opinion influenced the change of
Hokkaido government policy.
The citizens movement, including the Pika Fan Club, and the suit pressured the Hokkaido prefecture government to stop the road construction. On 17 March 1999, the governor announced the decision to discontinue the road construction. In Japan, the government, including local governments, rarely stop public undertakings once they have been decided. This time they had the courage to stop it. This was incredible, but it happened. We could not predict it, but we had believed in our victory firmly.
Though the Japanese pika is no longer in imminent danger, it is still in danger. There are many plans for development such as other road construction, a ski resort, and harvest of timber in its habitat. We will continuously campaign for getting it designated as an endangered species and a national natural monument.
Here is a
Japanese pika web page:
The Pika Fan Club has just published a small book highlighting their activities (in Japanese): ďWe want to hear the pikas call: The story of the struggle of a small NGOĒ