Many small animals hide in moss, so other animals often search through moss for food, but few animals actually eat moss. Moss is low in calories and high in protein but does not provide many nutrients. However, since moss can grow in some of the world’s harshest environments, it’s a food source for a few animals found in environments where food may be scarce.
This article details five different animals that include moss in their diets.
5 Animals That Eat Moss
Moss is a non-flowering plant and a member of the Bryophyta classification. Moss has been around for about 450 million years, and there are between 15,000 and 25,000 species of moss. Moss can be found on every continent in the world, including Antarctica. Moss is an interesting and unique plant that can survive in extreme heat and intense cold.
The following list is of 5 animals that eat moss as part of their diets.
1. American Pika
Scientific name: Ochotona princeps
Pikas are furry, rabbit-like creatures native to cold, mountainous regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. They are similar in size to large mice but have the appearance of a small guinea pig.
Pikas have thick fur and stout bodies to help them stay warm in cold climates. Their fur is black and brown, which allows them to hide from predators among the rocks. Pikas collect grasses and wildflowers during the warmer months to eat during the winter.
However, climate change is making it more difficult for pikas to find food. Studies show that the American Pikas have started to eat more moss in order to survive climate change.
As the planet’s temperatures become harsher, American Pikas that live in areas of lower elevation eat moss to survive. They venture out of their burrows when the weather permits to consume moss when their winter stash isn’t enough, or they need extra nourishment.
2. Musk Ox
Scientific name: Ovibos moschatus
Musk oxen are large, hoofed animals that are members of the Bovidae family. These mammals range between four and five feet in height at the shoulder and can weigh between 400 and 800 pounds. Musk oxen have thick, shaggy coats to keep them warm in the Artic Tundra where they live.
These herbivorous creatures do not have access to many plants because of the freezing temperatures, but they spend their days roaming around looking for food. In the warmer months, musk oxen consume grass, wildflowers, moss, and lichen.
During the winter months, the moss survives under the snow. Musk oxen dig through the snow with their hooves to get to the moss underneath.
Scientific name: Lemmus lemmus
Lemmings are small rodents native to the Arctic circle. Lemmings are between three and six inches long and typically weigh less than one ounce. They may be small, but unlike other members of the rodent family, lemmings can be quite fierce.
Instead of running away, they choose to stand their ground and fight. Lemmings have thick fur and small extremities like ears and tails to help them maintain body heat. They are herbivores, and because they live in such a cold environment, they must survive on what they can find.
During the warmer months, their diet includes grasses, fungi, berries, and more. However, during the harsh winter months, they must dig for food buried beneath the snow. Mosses can grow in harsh environments and don’t die when covered with snow, so it makes up a decent part of the lemming’s diet.
Scientific name: Achatinoidea
Snails are slow-moving animals that carry their homes on their backs in the form of a shell. Snails can completely retract into their shells for protection when needed.
There are around 46,000 different species of snails. Some species live on land, and others in the water. Snails have a surprising number of “teeth” – 15,000 to 20,000 teeth, to be exact.
These aren’t actually teeth but rather the radula, an organ that has thousands of tiny projections that resemble teeth. Snails use the radula to grind their food. Many snails, especially land snails, include moss in their diets.
Moss is a good source of protein for snails, and they eat it in the wild. It also makes a great addition to a pet snail’s diet.
Scientific name: Rangifer tarandus
Caribou are members of the deer family that live in areas of the extremely cold Arctic tundra. Some may not know this, but caribou and reindeer are actually the same animals. They are unique members of the deer family in the fact that both male and female caribou grow antlers.
In most other deer species, only the male grows antlers. The caribou’s hair is hollow, which helps it conserve heat. Caribou are herbivorous, meaning they survive on plants.
In the extreme cold, food can be scarce, so caribou spend much of their time foraging for food. Caribou survive on plants that can grow in harsh conditions, like lichen and moss.