Lulhaillaco is the highest active volcano on our planet. It lies on the border between Chile and Argentina and rises up to 6739 meters above sea level. Its snow-capped peak is at an extreme height, where the oxygen concentration is up to 45% below the norm and the temperature sometimes drops to -60 degrees Celsius. It would be logical to assume that these places are uninhabited, but not – in 2013 climber Matt Farson noticed a small rodent there. After learning about it, the scientists were interested in what other animals can live under such harsh conditions and what they eat there because there is no vegetation on the volcano. A few years later, the answers to some of the questions of interest to scientists were finally found.
Biologist Jay Storz was interested in what climber Matt Farson noticed on the huge active rodent volcano. According to Nebraska Today, mammals cannot theoretically live above 5 kilometers. And the rodent seen by the climber went at a height of about 6.7 kilometers. To find out whether rodents can really survive at extreme heights, the biologist climbed the Ljulyayljako volcano with the climber Mario Prez Mamani.
The toughest animals
To everyone's surprise, the researchers actually met several rodent species on the way to the top of a huge volcano. For example, they met individuals of the so-called Andean gerbil (Eligmodontia puerulus) who normally live in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. The biologist and climber was also lucky enough to see the ear lima (Phyllotis limatus), which belongs to the genus of hamsters with leaf ears and is usually inhabited by savannas, bushes and deserts.
The most interesting rodent for researchers, however, was the leaf-eared hamster of the species Phyllotis xanthopygus rupestris. It was seen at an altitude of 6700 meters, almost at the top of the Ljulyayljako volcano. From now on, it is believed that this tiny rodent is a habitat champion. In fact, not every living being will be able to live in conditions where there is little oxygen and almost no food. What can I say, at such a height, even well-educated people feel bad.
But how a tiny hamster can survive in such extreme conditions is still not clear to scientists. It is also surprising that rodents of the same species feel great in the lowlands. Therefore, the researchers are still surprised at how well hamsters are suitable for such diverse environmental conditions.
How can you live without food and oxygen?
To find out what animals eat at high altitudes, scientists want to examine the contents of their digestive systems. At the moment there is speculation that they feed on lichen and insects, which are rare but can still be found on the peaks of huge volcanoes. The researchers also want to carry out blood tests on rodents and examine red blood cells saturated with oxygen in the lungs and distribute them in the body of living beings. Perhaps this study will reveal the secret of how rodents survive in low-oxygen conditions.
Red blood cells – blood cells involved in the saturation of the human body and animals with oxygen. Also known as red blood cells. Read more about why a person needs air and how the lungs work in our special material.
According to biologist Jay Storz, other animals can live at high altitudes. Perhaps scientists have poorly studied the world's highest peaks so far, and we will make more discoveries in the future.
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The highest volcano in the world
It is important to understand that Ljulyayljako is the highest active volcano. In general, the highest volcano is Ojos del Salado, the height of which is 6891 meters. While Ljulyayljako is considered active and its last eruption occurred in 1877, the Ojos del Salado volcano is considered to be completely extinct since no activity has been observed in the entire history of the observation. In general, there are a large number of volcanoes in the world and there have been many strange things with them lately. We recommend reading about it now in our special material.