Discovery of the world's highest-dwelling mammal

Jay F. Storz, Marcial Quiroga-Carmona, Juan C. Opazo, Thomas Bowen, Matthew Farson, Scott J. Steppan, Guillermo D'Eliá

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18169-18171
Number of pages3
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number31
StatePublished - Aug 4 2020


  • Andes
  • High altitude
  • Hypoxia
  • Phyllotis
  • Range limits

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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