Essay

Discover 5 Animals That Eat Moss

About 12,000 species of flowering plants without vascular tissues belong to the phylum Bryophyta, which includes moss. These plants are found on every continent in the world. They can be found growing in a wide range of settings, from Antarctica’s bare granite surfaces to tropical rainforest.

Many different kinds of animals consume moss all throughout the planet. Since moss is not easily digested, most animals don’t eat huge amounts of this plant because it is normally about 80% fiber. Nonetheless, many herbivores are suited to consume moss in cold climates, particularly during the winter months when there is less variety in the flora.

We’ll go over five moss-eating animals in this article. To find out more, keep reading!

1. Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)

The cold-loving barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis) nests on Arctic shores from northeastern Greenland to Siberia and spends the winter in northern Europe. Its diet consists of a variety of hardy flora.

The primary diet of the barnacle goose is grasses and mosses, especially during the winter. The presence of other food sources in their surroundings affects how much moss they eat. The winter diet of barnacle geese, for instance, includes a large amount of moss in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

2. Animals That Eat Moss: American Pika (Ochotona princeps)

Although most animals only eat a tiny amount of moss, American pikas (Ochotona princeps), who live in low-elevation areas, are able to survive in climates that are usually too warm for them because they eat mostly moss.

These creatures may perish from overheating when temperatures climb beyond 75 degrees Fahrenheit since they have adapted to survive at elevations of 8,000–13,000 feet in regions that rarely see temperatures above freezing. The warming climate of the Earth is forcing American pika to higher altitudes. On the other hand, in 2013, researchers found that a population of American pika was living on 60% moss-based food on steep, shaded slopes at the foot of Oregon Rockies.

Researchers in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge discovered that low-elevation pikas may persist in the colder, shaded microclimate in their environment by mostly eating moss that grows in shady sections of it. They perform coprophagia by eating their feces to obtain extra nutrients after consuming the high-fiber moss.

According to a 2017 study examining the gut microbiomes of American pikas, these animals seem to be adjusting to a diet high in moss. The microbial communities of pikas that were fed on a lot of moss were discovered to possess substantial populations of Melainabacteria, a phylum of bacteria that is thought to digest cellulose in herbivores’ guts.

3. Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus)

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are omnivores that inhabit the Arctic tundra and subarctic taiga woods. They have adapted to survive by feeding on the sparse winter vegetation, which includes resilient moss.

Although they do eat moss, it’s crucial to understand that the moss that reindeer preferentially eat is actually a lichen called Cladonia rangiferina. Researchers have discovered that reindeer will readily eat a variety of true moss species in places with limited lichen cover or where lichen has been overgrazed. This is especially true in the winter, when there is a reduced variety of plants. Svalbard reindeer can consume up to 55% moss in their winter diet.

4. Animals That Eat Moss: Muskox (Ovibos moschatus)

The wild, stocky, long-haired bovids known as muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus) live in Siberia, Alaska, and the Canadian Arctic. These resilient herbivores consume a variety of plants, such as moss, woody plants, lichen, and grasses.

The winter months are when moosoxen eat moss the most. Latitude rises and low-lichen zones are also generally linked to this increased moss intake. Regardless of latitude, muskox populations in Alaska seem to dependably consume moss during the winter months.

5. Lemmings (Arvicolinae)

The Arvicolinae subfamily includes about 20 species of lemmings that inhabit the polar and temperate regions of Eurasia and North America. Lemming species that live in arctic and subarctic environments are more likely to eat moss.

In the tundra and arboreal forest regions of Eurasia, the wood lemming (Myopus schisticolor) is a resident. They steer clear of Sphagnum species but consume a variety of mosses. Researchers discovered that wood lemmings in eastern Finland mostly focused their winter foraging efforts on moss species belonging to the following genera: Pelurozium, Hylocomium, Polytrichum, Dicranum, Aulacomnium, and Ptilium.

The tundra regions of southern Alaska and northern Canada are home to Canadian lemmings. This little mouse with thick fur may consume up to 40% of its food in the winter months from moss.