Mountain Fauna

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mountain Fauna


the animals inhabiting the mountain regions of the earth. Most often the term “mountain fauna” is used to describe only high-mountain fauna.

The climate change in the Ice Age had enormous significance in the distribution of mountain animals and the formation of their areas of distribution. When the cold regions advanced, cold-loving animals moved far to the south; when there were new thaws and warm periods, some moved back again and some resettled in the mountains. This explains the presence of some representatives of northern European fauna in the mountains of Ethiopia and even on Kilimanjaro, the existence in the high-mountain region of Java of species similar to Siberian species, and the presence in the Alps of the white hare and of the alpine ptarmigan in the mountains of southern Siberia. Given man’s intensive appropriation of land, the mountains frequently are the last refuge for several species of animals completely annihilated on the plains.

The distribution of mountain fauna in vertical belts is similar to a certain degree to the distribution of animals in latitudinal natural zones. Animals living high in the mountains are distinguished by larger hearts and a higher content of erythrocytes and hemoglobin in the blood (an example of physiological adaption). Several typical mountain birds—birds of prey (vultures, condors), Galliformes (snow-cocks), and passerines (mountain thrushes, accentors, and others)— live at high altitudes. Reptiles and amphibians are rare in high-mountain regions. Mountain streams contain trout, Old World minnow, osman, (Diptychus), and mountain catfish. In mountain regions there is significant development of en-demism, especially among forms that are hardly mobile (mol-lusks, for instance). In the USSR mountain fauna is best seen in the Caucasus, Tien-Shan, the Pamirs, Altai, and the Saians.


Geptner, V. G. Obshchaia zoogeografiia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1936.
Zhivotnyi mir SSSR,vol. 5: Gornye oblasti Evropeiskoi chasti SSSR. Moscow-Leningrad, 1958.
Nasimovich, A. A. “Zhizn’ zhivotnykh v gorakh na bol’shikh vys-otakh.” Biull. Moskovskogo obshchestva ispytatelei prirody,1964, vol. 69, no. 5.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Some of the species can be regarded as probable remnants of ancient Mediterranean mountain fauna (paleoendemics), and others came from the northern parts of Europe during the glacials and evolved under isolation on mountains during the interglacials (neoendemics).