Italian hare (also known as the Appenine or Corsican hares) are located throughout Southern Italy, from Umbria and Southern Tuscany to Cabria. Populations are evenly distributed on mainland Italy, but fragmented on islands. They are widespread in Sicily and Corsica, but absent from other islands that surround Sicily. They were introduced in Corsica in the 16th century. Hybridization with other Lepus species was previously thought not to occur, but DNA analysis recently showed that hybridization likely occurs with European hares and Granada hares in Corsica. (Angelici, et al., 2010; Fulgione, et al., 2009; Mengoni, 2011; Mengoni, et al., 2014; Mori, et al., 2014; Pietri, et al., 2011)
Italian hares prefer habitats with alternating clearings, bushy areas, and deciduous woods. They may also inhabit dunes, cropland, Mediterranean vegetation, scrub forest, and urban areas. They are present at elevations from sea level to 1900 meters in Appenine regions and up to 2400 meters on Mt. Etna. Populations have declined as a result of habitat fragmentation, isolation, low population density, habitat deterioration, introduction of European hares, and over-hunting. (Angelici, et al., 2010; Mengoni, 2011)
- Aquatic Biomes
- Range elevation
- 0 to 2400 m
- 0.00 to 7874.02 ft
Italian hares have red-gray fur on neck, shoulders, and hips, gray-black fur on back, and white fur on dorsal surface. They have dark pelage on the nape of their neck. Their body is medium in size with a slender shape and small head that is elongated and laterally compressed. Head and body length is 55 to 61 cm, ears are about 11 cm in length with black tips. Eyes are large and brown. Hind limbs are more robust than front limbs with a hind leg length of about 13 cm with 4 toes; front limbs have 5 toes. Fur present on the feet provides grip and insulation from extreme temperatures. Hind limbs are developed for running and jumping (saltation). Skulls of hares are fenestrated and the rostrum is elongate. Dentition includes 4 incisors with no roots in upper jaw and no canines. Italian hares have 28 teeth with the dental formula: I 2/1 C 0/0 P 3/2 M 3/3. Second upper incisors are present as peg-like teeth posterior to the front incisors. There is no apparent sexual dimorphism. Italian hares can be distinguished from similar-looking European hares by their redder fur, proportionally longer hind feet and ears, subocular tawny patch, and a definite transition between colored fur on back and white belly fur. Italian hares weigh approximately 2.22 kg, which is about 800 g lighter than European hares. Information on the metabolic rate of Italian hares is unavailable. (Angelici and Luiselli, 2007; Chapman and Flux, 2008; Mengoni, 2011; Palacios, 1996; Riga, et al., 2001; Rugge, et al., 2009)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes alike
- Average mass
- 2.22 kg
- 4.89 lb
- Range length
- 55 to 61 cm
- 21.65 to 24.02 in
Information on the mating system of Italian hares is limited. Breeding occurs year-round except for a short inter-estrus period. Males fight for females by striking one another with their front legs and occasionally biting. Short courtship rituals occur prior to mating; with mating usually occurring at dusk or night. (Mengoni, 2011)
- Mating System
- polygynandrous (promiscuous)
Italian hares breed all year except for a 67 day inter-estrous period between October and December. Breeding varies geographically, with longer breeding intervals at higher latitudes. Most females reproduce 3 to 4 times yearly but may reproduce up to 5 times a year at lower latitudes. The gestation period is 41 to 42 days. Females exhibit post-partum estrous and may breed immediately after giving birth. No information is available for weaning, age of independence, or age of sexual maturity in Italian hares. In closely related European hares, leverets are weaned at about 21 days and females are sexually mature at 6 to 7 months. (Mengoni, 2011; Mengoni, 2011; Chapman and Flux, 2008; Mengoni, 2011)
- Key Reproductive Features
- year-round breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- post-partum estrous
- Breeding interval
- Italian hares breed every 3 to 4 months.
- Breeding season
- Italian hares breed between January and September.
- Range number of offspring
- 1 to 5
- Average number of offspring
- Range gestation period
- 41 to 42 days
- Average gestation period
- 41 days
Females prepare special areas called "havens," where they give birth to 1 to 5 offspring, called leverets. In hares, leverets are born at a precocial stage of development. Birth weight is unknown in Italian hares, but is 118 to 121 g in European hares. Births have been found to occur in a 1 male to 1.75 female sex ratio. Females remain in their native range while males disperse at maturity. Females nurse and protect their offspring until they reach independence. (Mallia, et al., 2009; Mengoni, 2011)
Italian hares are solitary and sedentary. They are nocturnal, foraging during the night, and remain in dens during the day. Italian hares are adapted for locomotion through running and jumping. Information on speed is unavailable for this species but other hare species can maintain 50 km/h for long periods of time and some are able to reach 80 km/h. (Chapman and Flux, 2008; Mengoni, 2011)
Information on the home range of Italian hares is not available in the literature. (Mengoni, 2011)
Communication and Perception
There is no information available for communication in Italian hares. However, like other hares, they have exceptionally keen hearing and good vision in low light.
Italian hares are entirely herbivorous, eating mostly grasses. In spring and summer they eat mostly grasses and mint species. Their year round diet also includes sedges, rushes, peas, and asters. They may also eat birthworts, borages, carnations, crucifers, beeches, irises, lilies, olives, plantains, buttercups, roses, and carrots. As in all lagomorph species, Italian hares practice coprophagy, producing two distinct sets of fecal pellets. (Freschi, et al., 2014a; Freschi, et al., 2014b; Hirakawa, 2001; Mengoni, 2011)
- Plant Foods
- wood, bark, or stems
- seeds, grains, and nuts
- Other Foods
Little is published about predators of this species. Red foxes, gray wolves, Eurasian badgers, least weasels, European pine martens, polecats, predatory birds, and feral cats in Italy are known predators of European hares. Italian hares are also hunted, despite being protected because they are similar in appearance to European hares, which are a game species. Italian hares, like other hares, are cryptically colored and capable of huge bursts of speed, which helps to protect them from some predation. (Bassi, et al., 2012; Chapman and Flux, 2008; Mengoni, 2011)
- Anti-predator Adaptations
Italian hares are prey species for carnivorous mammals and predatory birds. They are hosts for a variety of parasitic nematodes including Trichostrongylus retortaeformis, Graphidium strigosum, Teladorsagia circumcincta, and Trichuris species and cestodes such as Cittotaenia pectinata and Paranoplocephala species. Several species of ticks infest Italian hares, including Dermacentor marginatus, Rhicephalus turanicus, Hyalomma marginatum, and Ixodes ricinus. Italian hares can contract and spread European brown hare syndrome virus. Italian hares can also contract and spread rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (type 2) which was recently identified in Italian hares and both wild and domesticated rabbits (Oryctolagus cuninculus). Accumulation of fecal pellets in the home range of leporids increases nitrogen availability and results in greater growth in surrounding vegetation. These feces are reported to be an especially important source of nutrients in Mediterranean soils. (Bassi, et al., 2012; Chapman and Flux, 2008; Dantes-Torres, et al., 2011; Galviez, et al., 2008; Usai, et al., 2012)
- parasitic nematodes (Trichostrongylus retortaeformis)
- parasitic nematodes (Graphidium strigosum)
- parasitic nematodes (Teladorsagia circumcincta)
- parasitic nematodes (Trichuris species)
- cestodes (Cittotaenia pectinata)
- cestodes (Paranoplocephala species)
- ticks (Dermacentor marginatus)
- ticks (Rhicephalus turanicus)
- ticks (Hyalomma marginatum)
- ticks (Ixodes ricinus)
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Italian hares sometimes forage on agricultural land and damage crops. Italian hare can spread European Brown Hare Syndrome virus to wild and domesticated European hares, which are hunted and raised for human consumption. Italian hares can also contract rabbit haemorrhagic disease type 2 virus, which can be spread to domesticated rabbits (Oryctolagus cuninculus). (Camarda, et al., 2014; Chapman and Flux, 2008; Sullivan, et al., 1985)
- Negative Impacts
- crop pest
- causes or carries domestic animal disease
Italian hares are considered vulnerable by the IUCN because of its fragmented distribution and variable conservation statuses throughout its range.
Italian hares were previously thought to be a subspecies of European hares (Lepus europaeus). Lepus corsicanus was originally reported as a species in 1898 by W.E. de Winton based on museum specimens and later changed to subspecies of Lepus europaeus. It was thought to be extinct in the middle of the twentieth century. The species has been rediscovered recently in Italy and Corsica and has validated as a unique species based on morphological and genetic evidence. Some recent genetic studies suggest that Italian hares and broom hares (Lepus castroviejoi) may be conspecific, others suggest they are sister species. (Acevedo, et al., 2014; Alves, et al., 2008; Melo-Ferreira, et al., 2012; Mengoni, 2011; Palacios, 1996; Pierpaoli, et al., 1999)
Thomas Cooper (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
- bilateral symmetry
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
- causes or carries domestic animal disease
either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
an animal that mainly eats the dung of other animals
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
- female parental care
parental care is carried out by females
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.
- scrub forest
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
- tropical savanna and grassland
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
- temperate grassland
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
living in cities and large towns, landscapes dominated by human structures and activity.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
- year-round breeding
breeding takes place throughout the year
- young precocial
young are relatively well-developed when born
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