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Allegheny Cottontail

Sylvilagus obscurus Chapman, Cramer, Deppenaar & Robinson 1992

Behavior

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Similarly to other cottontails, Appalachian cottontails exercise a heightened sense of smell, hearing, and sight, aiding sending and receiving of signals, attracting mates, and allowing quick perception of and reaction to potential predators. Mothers may grunt if a predator is seen near the nest. Appalachian cottontails may also squeal while mating.

Communication Channels: chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
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Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
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John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Conservation Status

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Appalachian cottontails are found only in high elevations and are considered to be "near threatened" by the IUCN Red List. Population sizes are decreasing, and it is unknown why this species is limited to high elevations. Conservation status on the US Federal List is under review.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened

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Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
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Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
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John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Benefits

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Appalachian cottontails slow the regeneration of disturbed areas in the environment by feeding on low growing shrubs and grasses that colonize during early to mid succession. Appalachian cottontails can also transmit the bacterial infection, Tularemia, to humans.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (causes disease in humans )

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Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
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Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
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John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Benefits

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Appalachian cottontails and eastern cottontails are similar in appearance and both are hunted for their meat and fur.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material

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Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
editor
John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Associations

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Appalachian cottontails serve as prey for a wide variety of animals, including Owls, Hawks, Dogs, Foxes, and Humans. As consumers of fruits, this species may also act as seed dispersers. Appalachian cottontails also slow the regeneration of disturbed areas in the environment by feeding on low growing shrubs and grasses that colonize during early to mid succession.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

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Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
editor
John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Trophic Strategy

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The diet of Appalachian cottontails consists of grasses, forbs, and conifer needles in addition to leaves, twigs, and fruits from the mountainous shrubs in its habitat. In the winter, it is suspected that this species eats the buds and bark of trees and shrubs including red maple, aspen, choke cherry, black cherry, alders, and blueberry bushes.

Like most Lagomorphs, Appalachian cottontails partakes of coprophagy, the eating of their own feces. This allows for the uptake of essential vitamins that were unabsorbed during the first pass through the digestive tract.

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; fruit

Other Foods: dung

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore ); coprophage

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Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
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John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Distribution

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Appalachian cottontails inhabit forests and brushy areas at high elevations of the Appalachian Mountains, which stretch from the Hudson River in New York to northern Alabama.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
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John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Habitat

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Appalachian cottontails inhabit montane areas of high elevation coniferous forests as well as areas providing dense cover from mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), rhododendron (Rhododendron spp.), blackberry vines (Rubus spp.), greenbriar (Smilax spp.), and cane (Arundinaria gigantea). Generally, Appalachian cottontails are found at elevations greater than 762 m, though this species has been reported below 610 m at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains in Tennessee and Alabama. Appalachian cottontails are also found in high densities in clear cuts and ares of recent (5 to 25 years) disturbance.

Range elevation: 762 (low) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest ; mountains

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bibliographic citation
Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
editor
John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Life Expectancy

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Appalachian cottontails are very short-lived and are expected to live less than one year. Populations of this species are maintained because of their incredible productivity.

Typical lifespan
Status: wild:
1 (high) years.

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bibliographic citation
Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
editor
John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
editor
Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Morphology

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Appalachian cottontails are yellowish brown mixed with black on the dorsal side and have a reddish brown patch over the neck. Their sides are lighter in color and their ventral side white. They also have a short fluffy tail, which is darker on the top and ventrally white. Appalachian cottontails are nearly indistinguishable from New England cottontails in the field. They, however, occur in different ranges; cottontails found south or west of the Hudson River in New York are considered Appalachian cottontails.

While Appalachian cottontails show great resemblance to Eastern cottontails, Appalachian cottontails are slightly smaller in size, have shorter, rounded ears with black along the edges, and have a black spot on the head between the ears. Also, Eastern cottontails usually have a white spot on their forehead, which Appalachian cottontails lack. Additionally, the skulls of Appalachian cottontails and Eastern cottontails are markedly different when viewed from above. Appalachian cottontails have a jagged and irregular suture line between the frontal and nasal bones, whereas this line is smooth in Eastern cottontails. Also, the postorbital process of Appalachian cottontails are thin and just barely join the skull at the posterior end.

Range mass: .8 to 1.0 kg.

Range length: 38.6 to 43.0 cm.

Average length: 40.0 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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bibliographic citation
Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
editor
John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
editor
Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Associations

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Appalachian cottontails have quick, saltatorial locomotion to escape potential predators. Often, cottontails dash in a zig-zag pattern to lose predators. A slinking form of movement, low to the ground with the ears back, may be used to avoid detection. Additionally, cottontails can remain almost completely still and quiet for up to 15 minutes, even when closely approached, to prevent detection from predators. Known predators include Owls, Hawks, Dogs, Foxes, and Humans.

Known Predators:

  • Owls Strigiformes
  • Hawks Accipitridae
  • Dogs Canidae
  • Foxes g. Vulpes
  • Humans Homo sapiens
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The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors
bibliographic citation
Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
editor
John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
editor
Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Reproduction

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Although little information is available regarding the mating systems of Appalachian cottontails, other members of g. Sylvilagus are polygynous. Males in this genus fight amongst themselves, determining a hierarchy that influences mating priority. Appalachian cottontails may squeal while mating.

Mating System: polygynous

Male Appalachian cottontails come into breeding condition at the end of winter due to lengthening daylight and increases in temperature. Breeding begins in warm weather, usually between late February and early October. A prolific species, adult female Appalachian cottontails can breed immediately after giving birth. An adult female breeds an average of 3 times during the season and can bare 3 to 4 young with each litter. Appalachian cottontails produce 2 to 8 young annually. Gestation lasts 28 days, and young are weaned after 3 to 4 weeks. Around 6 to 7 days of age, young Appalachian cottontails, which are born blind, open their eyes, and after 12 to 14 days, they leave the next. Sexual maturity is reached after 1 to 2 months of age. Although males do not reproduce until the following spring, some female Appalachian cottontails reproduce late in the breeding season of their first summer.

Breeding interval: Female adult Appalachian cottontails breed 3 times during the breeding season, and a female cottontail from the first litter will likely breed during that same summer.

Breeding season: Appalachian cottontails breed between February to October.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 8.

Average number of offspring: 3.5.

Average gestation period: 28 days.

Range weaning age: 3 to 4 weeks.

Average time to independence: 1 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2-3 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2-3 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Expectant female Appalachian cottontails build a shallow nest composed of leaves, grass, and fur. Young cottontails are born naked, blind, and helpless, and the mother invests the month after birth to weaning and raising the litter. When she leaves for an extended period of time, the mother covers her nest and young with layers of fur, grass, leaves and twigs for camouflage and to keep the young warm. After 6 or 7 days, young Appalachian cottontails open their eyes, and after 12 to 14 days, they leave the nest. Lactation generally lasts for 16 days. After about one month, the young are completely independent from the mother.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

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bibliographic citation
Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_obscurus.html
author
Jeremy Cook, Northern Michigan University
editor
John Bruggink, Northern Michigan University
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Gail McCormick, Special Projects
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Appalachian cottontail

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The Appalachian cottontail (Sylvilagus obscurus) is a species of cottontail rabbit in the family Leporidae. It is a rare species found in the upland areas of the eastern United States. The species was only recognized as separate from the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) in 1992.[1]

Description

The Appalachian cottontail, Sylvilagus obscurus, is a small rabbit inhabiting mostly mountainous regions in the eastern U.S. ranging from Pennsylvania to South Carolina and being most prominent in the Appalachians.[2] S. obscurus is better adapted to colder climates than its distant relative, S. floridanus, the eastern cottontail. S. obscurus is light-yellow brown, mixed with black on the dorsal side, having a brown and red patch mixed on the neck. The ventral side is mostly white.[2] The Appalachian cottontail and S. transitionalis, the New England cottontail, are not easily distinguished in the field, and are most easily identified geographically. Cottontails found south or west of the Hudson River are considered Appalachian cottontails, those found north and east are considered New England cottontails. The species can otherwise be identified by chromosome number and skull measurements.[3] Female Appalachian cottontails are typically larger than males with reproductive needs being the most likely cause. The weight of the Appalachian Cottontail can range from as little as 756 grams (1.667 lb) up to as much as 1,153 grams (2.542 lb). The average length is 408 mm (16.1 in). The lifespan of S. obscurus is rather short, less than a year in some cases.[4]

Behavior

Sylvilagus obscurus is typically active around dusk or at dawn. During the day they typically avoid predators by sheltering under logs or in burrows. Hibernation does not play a factor, the rabbit being active year-round.[5] It is believed that there is a social hierarchy within the species especially when it comes to mating, in which the males assert their dominance by fighting to gain mating priority.[6]

Reproduction

Little is known about the reproductive habits of the Appalachian cottontail, but much can be based on knowledge of the genus Sylvilagus and the reproductive habits of most rabbits. Typically, they are inactive during midwinter, but as the nights shorten and the days lengthen, sexual activity develops strongly amongst Sylvilagus; the reason for this being that day length directly correlates with stimulation of FSH in the female’s blood which then in turn stimulates the follicles to develop ova.[7] This puts the female in "heat" until reproduction occurs, however there is no particular seasonal cycle as the female can remain in this state, deemed pre-estrus, for a while. The breeding season for the Appalachian cottontail has been found to be between February and October. Once fertilization occurs, the gestation period is about 28 days. Before giving birth, the female will begin to dig a nesting depression.[8] She then pulls out her fur from her underbelly and gathers berries and leaves in order to provide a lining for the nest. This hair-pulling also allows for the nipples to be exposed for the offspring to nurse. The offspring, when birthed, will live in the nest with vegetation until they are independent for about 3–4 weeks. Typically, a mother of the genus Sylvilagus will care for her young and visit the nest twice a day to nurse her offspring. An adult female can also breed up to 3-4 times per season and have roughly 3-4 offspring per litter.[9]

Habitat and diet

Appalachian cottontails are found in mountainous areas, typically from 610 to 762 m (2,001 to 2,500 ft) of elevation.[10] The Appalachian Mountains provide for S. obscurus a habitat with cover and vegetation such as blackberry, greenbriar, and mountain laurel.[11] Often this is what the Appalachian cottontail feeds on as well as bark and twigs of trees such as red maple, aspen, and black cherry. Usually its diet will consist of twigs, leaves, and fruits. Coprophagy, the eating of its own feces, often occurs as it is useful for it to take up certain vitamins and nutrients that weren’t digested well in the first pass of digestion. This type of diet is found in most of the genus Sylvilagus.

Communication

The Appalachian cottontail has adapted to its role of prey, and because of this it typically has heightened senses of smell, hearing, and sight. This allows for the rabbit to notice predators and react quickly to threats.[12] Mothers have been observed performing a grunting sound in order to alert offspring to the presence of predators. Its senses are also used to find potential mates, and it has been discovered squealing at times when mating occurs.[6]

Threats

There are several threats that have endangered the survival of S. obscurus. These threats involve the destruction and maturation of habitat, as well as habitat fragmentation which is due to urban development. Once fragmentation has occurred the lack of cover exposes the cottontail to predators, increasing the strain on the species. Hunting is a common reason for deaths of many Appalachian cottontails but is mostly due to lack of knowledge by the hunter. The lack of knowledge of this species, because it is so secretive and rarely found in the wild, also contributes to its being threatened.[1]

Family and genus

Sylvilagus obscurus is a part of the family Leporidae. This family consists of 12 genera, containing a total of 62 species of lagomorphs. Lagomorphs are characterized by 2 pairs of incisors. Sylvilagus species are herbivores but have been seen to practice coprophagy. As with other lagomorphs, the tail is highly reduced, the jaw is perforated, and the soles of the feet are densely furred.[13] The generic name Sylvilagus is derived from Latin sylva (woods) and lagus (hare), together meaning "hare of the woods".[14] This genus consists of 13 different species which are found throughout North America, Central America, and northern South America.[15] Within the genus Sylvilagus there are many distant relatives of Sylvilagus obscurus such as Sylvilagus robustus which is found in the Guadalupe Mountains in Mexico at elevations as high as 1,400 m (4,600 ft) in woodland habitats similar to those of S. obscurus.[16]

References

  1. ^ a b c Barry, R.; Lanier, H.C. (2019). "Sylvilagus obscurus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T41301A45192437. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T41301A45192437.en.
  2. ^ a b Bunch, Mary; Davis, Rickie; Miller, Stanlee; Harrison, Rob. "Appalachian Cottontail: Sylvilagus obscurus" (PDF). South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
  3. ^ Russell, Kevin; Moorman, Christopher; Guynn, David (1999). "Appalachian Cottontails, Sylvilagus obscurus From the South Carolina Mountains with Observations on Habitat Use" (PDF). The Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society. 115 (3): 140–144. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 November 2014.
  4. ^ Chapman, J.A.; Cramer, K.L. "North American Mammals". Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
  5. ^ Joly, Kyle, and Wayne Myers. "Biological Conservation." Patterns of mammalian species richness and habitat associations in Pennsylvania. 99.2 253-260. Print.
  6. ^ a b Cook, J. 2011. "Sylvilagus obscurus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. 30 October 2012.
  7. ^ Litvalis, John, and Walter Jakubas. "New England Cottontail Assessment." New England Cottontail Assessment. (2004): 1-73. Print. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 December 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Cotton Tail Rabbit: Sylvilagus floridanus." National Geographic . 2012: n. page. Web. 30 October 2012.
  9. ^ Hamilton, William, and John Whitaker. Mammals of Eastern United States. New York: 1998. 166-200. Print.
  10. ^ Boyce, Kelly A.; Barry, Ronald E. (March 2007). "Seasonal Home Range and Diurnal Movements of Sylvilagus obscurus (Appalachian Cottontail) at Dolly Sods, West Virginia". Northeastern Naturalist. 14 (1): 99–110. doi:10.1656/1092-6194(2007)14[99:SHRADM]2.0.CO;2.
  11. ^ Moseley, Kurtis, W. Mark Ford, John Edwards, and Michael Strager. "USDA." A Multi-Criteria Decisionmaking Approach for Management Indicator Species Selection on the Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia. (2010): 1-26. Print.
  12. ^ Ford, Mark, Brian Chaman, and Margaret Trani. "Introduction of Mammals to the South." Introduction to Mammals of the South. n.d. n. page. Print.
  13. ^ Pekala, Susan. A Guide to Pocono Mammals for Educators. East Stroudburg University , 2004, Page 18. 1-114. Print.
  14. ^ Cervantes, Fernando, and Consuelo Lorenzo. "Mammalian Species." Sylvilagus insonus . 568. (1997): 1-4. Print.
  15. ^ Halanych, Kenneth, and Terrence Robinson. "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution." Phylogenetic Relationships of Cottontails (Sylvilagus, Lagomorpha) Congruence of 12s rDNA and Cytogenetic DNA. 7.3 (1997): 294-302. Print.
  16. ^ Lee, Dana, Russell Pfau, and Loren Ammerman. "Journal of Mammalogy." Taxonomic status of the Davis Mountains cottontail, Sylvilagus robustus, revealed by amplified fragment length polymorphism. 91.6 (2010): 1473-1483. Print.

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Appalachian cottontail: Brief Summary

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The Appalachian cottontail (Sylvilagus obscurus) is a species of cottontail rabbit in the family Leporidae. It is a rare species found in the upland areas of the eastern United States. The species was only recognized as separate from the New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) in 1992.

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