Jay F. Storz http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5448-7924
Marcial Quiroga-Carmona http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2321-7777
Juan C. Opazo http://orcid.org/0000-0001-7938-4083
Thomas Bowen http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9319-0573
Matthew Farson http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3624-1677
Scott J. Steppan http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5920-3935
Guillermo D’Elía http://orcid.org/000 0-0001-7173-2709
Date of this Version
PNAS | August 4, 2020 | vol. 117 | no. 31 | 18169–18171
Environmental limits of animal life are invariably revised when the animals themselves are investigated in their natural habitats. Here we report results of a scientific mountaineering expedition to survey the high-altitude rodent fauna of Volcán Llullaillaco in the Puna de Atacama of northern Chile, an effort motivated by video documentation of mice (genus Phyllotis) at a record altitude of 6,205m. Among numerous trapping records at altitudes of >5,000 m, we captured a specimen of the yellow-rumped leaf-eared mouse (Phyllotis xanthopygus rupestris) on the very summit of Llullaillaco at 6,739 m. This summit specimen represents an altitudinal world record for mammals, far surpassing all specimen-based records from the Himalayas and other mountain ranges. This discovery suggests that we may have generally underestimated the altitudinal range limits and physiological tolerances of small mammals simply because the world’s high summits remain relatively unexplored by biologists.
Footage of a leaf-eared mouse (Phyllotis spp.) at 6205 m on Volcán Llullaillaco, Región de Antofagasta, Chile (24°43.052'S, 68°33.323'W). Filmed by Matthew Farson.
Storz PNAS 2020 movie 2.avi (100610 kB)
Capture of a yellow-rumped leaf-eared mouse, Phyllotis xanthopygus, on the summit of Volcán Llullaillaco (6739 m), Región de Antofagasta, Chile (24°43.235’S, 68°32.208’W). Filmed by Mario Pérez Mamani.