By Gail Marsh
Nope, you can’t escape them. Mice are everywhere. They sneak into the tiniest hole and flatten themselves to squeeze through the smallest crack. They nibble any errant crumb the vacuum misses. Mice shred towels to make comfortable bedding for themselves along with their many relatives. Worst of all, they leave teeny-tiny “calling cards” everywhere! RV owners dread mice… and with good reason. They make a mess of things, carry disease and are, well, just creepy.
So… when you thought you might be able to escape an RVer’s worst nightmare – mice – by escaping to the highest of heights, think again! Scientists have discovered these mousey-mammals at the top of one of the highest volcanoes in the world: Llullaillaco. This volcano sits atop the Andes mountain range between Argentina and Chile. The mice discovered here have adapted to the 22,000-foot elevation, though scientists are still trying to figure out how they are able to live in such a harsh environment.
How do the mice survive at this elevation?
The average temperature on Llullaillaco is 5 degrees Fahrenheit and can reach as low as minus 75 F. The oxygen levels are half the amount found at sea level. Llullaillaco is subject to violent storms and features very little vegetation. The grueling conditions test even the most seasoned scientist, yet somehow the mice survive. Pretty amazing!
In the past, scientists theorized that the mice found at higher elevations simply followed explorers up the mountain. It was surmised that they survived by eating the food that was dropped or left behind as the expedition trekked upward. Now it seems clear that the little rodents have adapted and even thrived in the harsh environment.
Scientists are excited to return to Llullaillaco to continue their study of the “mountain mice.” Learning more about how they have adapted to low oxygen levels, extreme temperatures, and little food may have important ramifications for people suffering from lung conditions, heart disease, and other health challenges. Incredible, isn’t it?
It sounds interesting – all that research. I can’t wait until scientists unearth the burrows where the mice live. Wouldn’t it be something if they found scented dryer sheets, bars of Irish Spring soap, and sonic repellents? Now that, from an RVer’s perspective, would be utterly amazing!