ANSWERS AND THE CHINESE NEW YEAR ARRIVE TOGETHER
February 20, 2011
Year of the Rabbit, 2011, arrived in February, and right on time came
a new book about these furry mammals: "Rabbits: The Animal Answer
Guide" by Susan Lumpkin and John Seidensticker (Johns Hopkins University
Press, 2011). The paperback is $24.95. You will want this book if you
have a pet rabbit or plan to have one, or if you just want to know more
about the 90 or so species that live in the world today.
other animal answer guides in the series, this book consists of commonly
asked questions followed by answers from the authors, who are experts
in the field. The first one in the rabbit book is, What are lagomorphs?
The answer: rabbits, hares and pikas, which comprise the order Lagomorpha.
Despite the big front teeth, rabbits are not rodents. In fact, a close
look at a rabbit's mouth will reveal another set of incisors behind the
front pair, whereas rodents have but a single pair. The next questions
for many people would be, What is a pika, and how do you distinguish between
rabbits and hares?
and "hares" are distinctive to biologists, both genetically
and in their ancestral relationships. A jack rabbit is a hare, and so,
according to the authors, is Bugs Bunny. The well-known cottontails are
true rabbits. A Playboy Bunny belongs to an altogether different order
of mammals. In general, hares are bigger than rabbits, have black-tipped
ears, and run away to escape rather than bolting into a hole. But reproductive
traits are what really set rabbits and hares apart. Rabbits have their
babies in a burrow or ground depression in a nest that is made from their
own fur and grass. Baby rabbits are born hairless with their eyes shut,
and newborns are completely helpless. Most baby hares are born with fur
and with eyes wide open, and they are ready to run.
to a family all their own. Tiny, with short, rounded ears, they look like
little balls of fur and are as cute as any bunny. In the United States,
pikas are found in the rocky slopes of mountainous regions in the West.
One of their distinctive traits is frequent vocalization, including whistling
and squeaking sounds.
many questions answered in the book is, How long do rabbits live? Eastern
cottontails are believed to be able to live up to 10 years, although most
individuals live less than two. European rabbits, a common and widespread
species in Europe, are known to live for only about seven and a half years
in the wild. In captivity, however, they often live up to nine or 10 years.
The authors state that "the only lagomorph that makes a good pet
is the domestic European rabbit." As with many animal species that
are prey, their life span in the wild can be greatly shortened by predation,
and all species of rabbits fall prey to whatever array of predators live
around them. An eastern cottontail has to deal daily with the threat of
bobcats, foxes, hawks, owls and snakes. Among the most uncaring and regrettable
causes of mortality to rabbits, as well as other wildlife, is the automobile
questions include, What are the largest and smallest of living rabbits?
Do rabbits fight? Do rabbits bite? Do rabbits make good pets? To find
the answers, you know what book to consult. "Rabbits: The Animal
Answer Guide" is the third in a series. The first two were about
squirrels and turtles. The fourth, about frogs and toads, will be published
in April. As with the other books, "Rabbits" has numerous excellent
photographs, in color and in black-and-white. If you want to learn about
some remarkable animals, any of these books is well worth the price.
Chinese Year of the Rabbit bring good fortune to rabbits? Since many people
still consider a rabbit's foot to be a good luck charm, the answer is,
probably no more than any other year.
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