As part of the global climate change that everyone at the Utah Legislature knows isn't happening, intelligent animals are adapting to new environmental realities.
A pair of University of Utah biologists found that pikas, a cuter relative of rabbits usually found at high altitude, living near sea level in Oregon may survive hot weather by eating more moss than any other mammal.
“Our work shows pikas can eat unusual foods like moss to persist in strange environments,” biology professor Denise Dearing says, senior author of a new study, in the February 2014 Journal of Mammalogy. “It suggests that they may be more resistant to climate change than we thought.”
As a side benefit, the pika's won't have problems with irregularity. Doctoral student and co-author Jo Varner, explains, “Some fiber is good, but this is almost all fiber. Mosses are 80 percent fiber." Because moss has the nutritional value slightly better than paper, the pika have to eat lots and lots of moss—it's 60 percent of their diet—a world record for mammals.
Normally, SLMag doesn't cover the lifestyles of Oregon pikas, no matter how hip and high fiber their diets. But we wanted to give kudos not only to the pikas and the U scientists, but to the PR science specialist who wrote the hilarious press release.
Lee Siegel, formerly science writer at The Salt Lake Tribune (back when The Tribune had things like science writers, art critics, business coverage and copy editors), has been at the UofU for years, where he regularly cranks out press releases that fascinate and bemuse us enough to read past the headline. Who could resist headline like this on a press release for scientific research paper?
"A Roly-Poly Pika Gathers Much Moss"
"HIGH-FIBER SALAD BAR MAY HELP LAGOMORPHS SURVIVE CLIMATE CHANGE"
Not to mention this intriguing subheadline:
"The Findings: Eat Moss, Eat Poop and Live"
Here's the prose he had to work with in the journal article: “To our knowledge, this study represents the highest degree of voluntary moss consumption reported for a mammalian herbivore in the wild, although wood lemmings have survived on a pure moss diet in a laboratory."
Siegel even managed to include a holiday hook: "Svalbard reindeer consume up to 54 percent moss in winter, but most reindeer eat only 22 percent to 30 percent moss..."