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Reproduction

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Swamp rabbits are synchronous breeders; all the members of a population breed at or around the same time. Prior to breeding a predictable sequence of behaviors occurs. First, females chase and/or threaten the males. Consequently, the males dash away. A jumping sequence follows. Finally, copulation occurs, and females begin chasing the males again.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Swamp rabbits usually begin breeding in mid- to late-February until August. Few exceptions are noted: in Texas, breeding occurs year round, in Louisiana, breeding can occur in every month except October.

Estrous behavior in unbred females follows a 12-day cycle, and estrus itself lasts about an hour in S. aquaticus. The gestation period lasts from 35 to 40 days (average of 36 to 37 days). They give birth to 1 to 6 offspring with an average of 3 offspring per litter.

Females make nests out of grass, dead twigs, and leaf litter above ground. These nests are typically 5.5 cm deep, 15 cm wide, and 18 cm high, and have side entrances. Sometimes, they use holes in large stumps or logs, Females also tend to build dummy nests before they build a real nest, which differs in that it is lined with fur before females give birth.

Young become sexually mature between 23 and 30 weeks old. Although juveniles are capable of breeding in their first year, most do not. Females have between 1 to 6 litters a year but 2 to 3 is most common.

Breeding interval: Females typically have 2 to 3 litters per year.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from mid- to late-February in most places, but can occur year-round.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 6.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Range gestation period: 35 to 40 days.

Average gestation period: 36.5 days.

Range time to independence: 12 to 15 days.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 23 to 30 weeks.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 23 to 30 weeks.

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

Mothers stay with their young until they leave the nest at 12 to 15 days old. She nurses them usually around dusk and dawn. The mother continues to feed the young after they leave the nest. Once the young are weaned there is no further parental care. Males do not care for young.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female)

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Annamarie Roszko, Radford University
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Karen Francl, Radford University
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Behavior

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Swamp rabbits are normally not vocal except when they feel threatened. Males also leave scent marks to establish territories. Other Sylvilagus species also drum the ground with their rear feet to indicate aggression.

Communication Channels: tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Annamarie Roszko, Radford University
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Karen Francl, Radford University
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Conservation Status

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The IUCN rank of this species is Lower Risk/Least Concern. Sylvilagus aquaticus has a global rank of "Secure" from NatureServe2007. In Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana populations are considered secure. Swamp rabbits are vulnerable in Kentucky and Arkansas and imperiled in Oklahoma and South Carolina.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Annamarie Roszko, Radford University
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Karen Francl, Radford University
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Benefits

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Swamp rabbits are usually harmless, but may occasionally damage crops and other vegetation.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Benefits

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Swamp rabbits are hunted for fur, meat, and for sport in the southeastern United States.

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

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Annamarie Roszko, Radford University
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Associations

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Swamp rabbits are important prey in their native ecosystems and their herbivory influences plant communities.

Swamp rabbits are affected by several parasites which include the trematodes Hasstilesia texensis and Hasstilesia tricolor, the cestodes Cittotaenia ctenoides, Cittotaenia variabilis, Multiceps serialis, and Raillietina stilesiellacestodes, the nematodes Graphidium strigosum, Nematodirus leporis, Obeliscoides cuniculi, Parasalurus ambiguous, Trichostrongylus calcaratus, and Trichuris leporis, fleas, ticks, and mites Haemaphysalis leporis-palustris.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • trematodes Hasstilesia texensis
  • trematodes Hasstilesia tricolor
  • nematodes Graphidium strigosum
  • nematodes Nematodirus leporis
  • nematodes Obeliscoides cuniculi
  • nematodes Parasalurus ambiguous
  • nematodes Trichostrongylus calcaratus
  • nematodes Trichuris leporis
  • cestode Cittotaenia ctenoides
  • cestodes Cittotaenia variabilis
  • cestodes Multiceps serialis
  • cestodes Raillietina stilesiellacestodes
  • mites Haemaphysalis leporis-palustris
  • fleas Siphonaptera)
  • ticks Acari
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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Annamarie Roszko, Radford University
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Trophic Strategy

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Swamp rabbits are herbivores, foraging on a variety of plant materials, including grasses, sedges, shrubs, tree bark, tree seedlings, and twigs. Helm and Chabreck (2006) found that their preferred foods include savannah panicgrass (Phanopyrun gymnocarpon), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), dewberry (Rubus sieboldii) and greenbrier (Smilax bona-nox). Swamp rabbits practice coprophagy. They have two kinds of fecal matter. The first is soft and green and still had nutrients in it--this is the kind that they eat because it gives them a chance to get more nutrients out of the food. The second kind of fecal matter are dark brown/black hard pellets--they do not eat these.

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems

Other Foods: dung

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Granivore , Lignivore); coprophage

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Annamarie Roszko, Radford University
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Tanya Dewey, Animal Diversity Web
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Distribution

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Sylvilagus aquaticus can be found in most of the south-central United States and the Gulf coast. It is abundant in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Sylvilagus aquaticus can also be found in parts of South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Habitat

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Sylvilagus aquaticus prefers to live in swampy lowlands, marshy areas, floodplains, tributaries of larger rivers, and cypress swamps. It is typically found close to water. Swamp rabbits spend the day in self-made depressions in tall grass, leaves, or anything that provides cover until their nocturnal foraging bouts.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Life Expectancy

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There is not much known about the wild or captive lifespans of Sylvilagus aquaticus because there have been very few studies examining this topic. Other Sylvilagus species live from 7 to 9 years maximum.

Range lifespan
Status: wild:
10 (high) years.

Average lifespan
Status: wild:
1.8 years.

Average lifespan
Status: wild:
1.8 years.

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Morphology

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Sylvilagus aquaticus is the largest member of its genus, the cottontails. However, its ears are smaller relative to other cottontails. The head and back are usually a mix of dark brown, rusty brown, or black. The throat, ventral surface and tail are white. A clear cinnamon-colored ring is visible around the eye. Males are slightly larger than females. Males weigh from 1816 to 2554 grams, with an average of 2235 g. Females are from 1646 to 2668 grams, averaging 2161 g.

Altricial young are born with fur up to 5 mm long with a weight of approximately 61.4 g. At birth, their fur color is dark (either brown or black) on their back, sides and throat. The tail, chin and abdomen are white. The head is a mix of tan and black. Their eyes are closed when born and open in 4 to 7 days.

Range mass: 1646 to 2668 g.

Range length: 452 to 552 mm.

Average length: 501 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Associations

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There are few known predators of Sylvilagus aquaticus, but known predators include domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), and humans (Homo sapiens). This species is the 2nd most hunted rabbit in the United States. They use a combination of cryptic coloration and "freezing" to avoid being detected and a rapid, irregular jumping pattern when fleeting to avoid capture.

Known Predators:

  • American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis)
  • domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
  • humans (Homo sapiens)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Roszko, A. 2007. "Sylvilagus aquaticus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Sylvilagus_aquaticus.html
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Swamp rabbit

provided by wikipedia EN

The swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus), or swamp hare,[4] is a large cottontail rabbit found in the swamps and wetlands of the southern United States. Other common names for the swamp rabbit include marsh rabbit and cane-cutter. The species has a strong preference for wet areas, and it will take to the water and swim.[5]

Range and habitat

The swamp rabbit is found in much of the south-central United States and along the Gulf coast.[6] It is most abundant in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, but also inhabits South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Georgia.[6]

Swamp rabbits mainly live close to lowland water, often in cypress swamps, marshland, floodplain, and river tributaries.[6] Swamp rabbits spend much of their time in depressions which they dig in tall grass or leaves, providing cover while they wait until the nighttime to forage.[6]

There is concern that swamp rabbits are increasingly becoming exposed to predation, especially during snowy/wintry seasons. Snow cover has shown to increase swamp rabbit mortality by almost two times in the northern extent of their range. This is due mostly to the fact that snow cover constrains hiding ability and availability of food resources.[7]

Physical description

S. aquaticus is the largest of the cottontail species, although its ears are smaller than of other cottontails.[6] Males are slightly larger than females.[6] The head and back are typically dark or rusty brown or black, while the throat, ventral surface, and tail are white, and there is a cinnamon-colored ring around the eye.[6] Their sides, rump, tail and feet are much more brownish, along with a pinkish-cinnamon eye-ring, as opposed to the whitish eye-ring in eastern cottontails.[5]

S. aquaticus males vary in weight from approximately 4 lb (1.8 kg) to 5.6 lb (2.5 kg), with an average of about 5 lb (2.3 kg); females vary from approx. 3.6 lb (1.6 kg) to 5.9 lb (2.7 kg), averaging about 4.8 lb (2.2 kg). S. aquaticus ranges in length from approx. 17.8 inches (45 cm) to 21.7 in (55 cm), with an average length of about 19.7 in (50 cm).[6]

Predation

Known predators of Sylvilagus aquaticus are domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis), and humans (Homo sapiens).[6] Even though their swimming abilities lack the speed to escape a pack of hunting dogs, swamp rabbits elude pursuers by lying still in the water surrounded by brush or plant debris with only their nose visible.[5] The species is hunted for fur, meat, and sport, and is the second-most commonly hunted rabbit in the United States.[6] Swamp rabbits have several adaptations to avoid predators: cryptic coloration, "freezing", and rapid, irregular jumping patterns.[6]

Ontogeny and reproduction

S. aquaticus are synchronous breeders. Females give birth to altricial young. Young are born with well-developed fur but their eyes are closed and they are immobile. Their eyes have opened by day 3 and the young have begun walking. They are weaned and leave the nest after about 15 days. Young are sexually mature at 7 months and reach adult weight at 10 months.[8] The nests in which the young are born consist of a slight depression in the earth that is filled with grasses mixed with rabbit hair.[5]

Breeding season varies widely across the range of S. aquaticus, usually occurring anywhere between February and August, but can occur year-round in Texas. Spermatogenesis has been noted to occur in S. aquaticus in Missouri in October and November. In a Mississippi study, groups of males harvested in December and February had higher percentages of individuals with descended testes than those harvested in any other months (Class 2006). S. aquaticus exhibit induced ovulation and have an hour-long estrus. The gestation period lasts 35 to 40 days. Females can have 1 to 3 litters a year with each litter consisting of 4 to 6 young. The occurrence of embryo resorption has been seen in S. aquaticus; this loss of in-utero litters is attributed to some type of habitat disturbance such as flooding, which may cause overcrowding to occur.[8]

Diet

Swamp rabbits are herbivorous; they eat a variety of foraged plants, including grasses, sedges, shrubs, tree bark seedlings, and twigs.[6] They feed mainly at night but rain showers will often cause them to feed during daytime as well.[5] A study has found that the preferred foods of S. aquaticus are savannah panicgrass (Phanopyrum gymnocarpon), false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica), dewberry (Rubus sieboldii) and greenbrier (Smilax bona-nox).[6]

Like other lagomorphs, they have a double digestion. Food passes through their gut twice, first producing soft, green feces (cecotropes) which still contain nutrients. These are eaten by the animal (coprophagy), and after further digestion the remains form drier, dark brown or black hard pellets, which are not eaten.[6]

Species competition

Rival males will often engage in aggressive encounters that sometimes become violent enough to kill one of the combatants. When fighting, males will stand on their hind legs and use their teeth and claws to inflict wounds on their opponent. They will also jump from the ground and strike with the sharp claws of the hind feet.[5]

See also

References

  1. ^ Hoffman, R.S.; Smith, A.T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 207–8. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ "Sylvilagus aquaticus (swamp rabbit)". PBDB.
  3. ^ Smith, A.T. & Boyer, A.F. (2008). "Sylvilagus aquaticus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2008: e.T41296A10417240. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T41296A10417240.en.
  4. ^ Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Swamp Hare" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Reed, Don (September 2008). "Wildlife Species Profile Swamp Rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus)" (PDF). Louisiana Wildlife News (5). Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Sylvilagus aquaticus (swamp rabbit), Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.
  7. ^ Hillard, Elizabeth M., et al. “Winter Snow Cover Increases Swamp Rabbit (Sylvilagus Aquaticus) Mortality at the Northern Extent of Their Range.” Mammalian Biology, vol. 93, 2018, pp. 93–96., doi:10.1016/j.mambio.2018.09.001.
  8. ^ a b Courtney, Emily M. (5 September 2008). "Swamp rabbit ( Sylvilagus aquaticus )" (PDF). Mammals in Mississippi (3). Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
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Swamp rabbit: Brief Summary

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The swamp rabbit (Sylvilagus aquaticus), or swamp hare, is a large cottontail rabbit found in the swamps and wetlands of the southern United States. Other common names for the swamp rabbit include marsh rabbit and cane-cutter. The species has a strong preference for wet areas, and it will take to the water and swim.

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