Questions for ‘Some pikas survive winter by eating yak poop’

a pika peeking out of a burrow in the ground

A plateau pika peeks out of its burrow on the Tibetan Plateau. These mammals endure the harsh winter by using little energy and, when possible, eating yak dung.

Qingsheng Chi

To accompany “Some pikas survive winter by eating yak poop


Before reading:

1.  Most people view the idea of eating feces as repellent. Yet a number of species regularly dine on dung. Name as many of these as you can.

2.  Why might animals choose to eat dung? (Hint: What does the body make dung from?)

During Reading:

1.  How cold do winter temps get on the Tibetan Plateau?

2.  What are pikas and what do they usually eat?

3.  What is an ecophysiologist?

4.  What did John Speakman and his colleagues do to collect their data on pikas?  

5.  What makes pikas unlike many other animals that do not hibernate in winter, according to the story?

6.  What unexpected link between yaks and pikas did the scientists find?

After Reading:

1.  Why do you think Speakman’s team studies the metabolism and behavior of pikas?

2.  Do some research on the Tibetan Plateau. Now imagine you are a researcher that was just given a big research grant to study something there. What question would you work to answer? Describe the type of study you might do to go about answering that question. And what type of researchers would you bring along to assist you?