Life Up Top

“What types of animals, if any, can live on the highest mountain tops?”

If you were to climb to the peak of Mount Everest, it’d be as if you’d taken a walk to the far northern or southern part of Earth’s globe. The same sorts of animals adapted to extremely high latitudes are also suited for the harshness of high mountain life.

The yak is the highest-dwelling mammal in the world. It has to suffer the cold — and compensates for a lack of oxygen at high altitudes with its huge lungs. Yaks in the Himalayas graze on wiry grass found as high up as six kilometers — about 20 thousand feet. Most plant and animal life on Mount Everest stops not far above that height. But Mount Everest is much higher — more than eight kilometers high — that’s about five miles or 26 thousand feet high.

In 1924, scientists did find the “jumping spider” and a crawling insect called a “spring tail” living comfortably at over 7,000 meters, about 23,000 feet. The jumping spider eats the spring tail, which in turns eats fragments of leaves and dead flies that drift in the wind. Other animals may live even higher up, but if so they remain unstudied because their habitat is so inaccesible.

Recommended Book: The Himalayas, Nigel Nicolson. Amsterdam: Time-Life Books, 1975.

What you have in your mind?