Small mammals of the Steppe

Amongst large herbivores live many species of small mammals that dig deep underground tunnels to escape predators. In south-America, there are different species of rodents: the guinea pig, now used as a pet, the viscacha and the tuco-tuco, that looks like a big hamster. As they dig the soil, these rodents keep raking up the layers of earth, thus helping to ventilate the land and reduce the surface concentration of mineral salts.
In north-American steppes live prairie dogs, rodents organised into complex communities and living in veritable cities dug in the ground. Prairie dogs have a very complex social life and communicate through a well-developed language made of gestures and calls. Some individuals mount guard near the entrances to their lairs, while others look after their brood: at the first sign of danger, the sentinels let out a cry to alert the community, and they all hide into tunnels. Prairie dogs graze all the grass around their colonies to prevent predators getting near without being sighted
In the Asian steppes live the yak, the mouflon and the onager or wild ass. Among small Asian mammals, let’s mention the souslik, the Asian counterpart of the prairie dog, and the common hamster.
Other small animals of the Steppe
Hidden amidst the grass thrive many species of insects, especially grasshoppers, beetles and butterflies, which play the important role of pollinators. There are also many reptiles, such as the rattlesnakes of north-America.
The high number of herbivores and small animals attract many species of predators. Wolves in Europe and Asia and coyotes in north-America attack large animals, while foxes, weasels, badgers, stoats and Polar cats take small preys. Birds of pray are also frequent visitors of the prairie: their sharp sight allows them to find preys even from far away, in an area which virtually offers no hiding places.

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Facts

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