Sylvilagus brasiliensistapeti

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Geographic Range

Sylvilagus brasiliensis ranges from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. It commonly occurs in Amazonian Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia and is common in eastern Brazil. In southern South America S. brasiliensis is found in both eastern and western Paraguay and in Argentina across the northern provinces and as far south as Tucuman province. (Eisenberg and Redford, 1999)

Habitat

Sylvilagus brasiliensis spends its time in moist forested areas. It also inhabits transitional forest and grasslands in the Chaco. (Mares, et al., 1989)

Physical Description

Sylvilagus brasiliensis is a medium-sized rabbit, ranging in weight from 700 to 1000 g. The pelage is typically yellowish-brown, but some individuals are a darker brown or reddish color. The ventrum is whitish. This species has a characteristic russet patch on the dorsum of the neck. It also has pale spots above the eye and on the muzzle. (Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Mares, et al., 1989)

  • Range mass
    0.7 to 1 kg
    1.54 to 2.20 lb

Reproduction

No information was found on S. brasiliensis mating systems. However, other species in the genus are apparently polygynous. Males may compete to establish dominance hierarchies, which in turn determine mating priority. The rigidity of these hierarchies varies between species. (Nowak, 1999)

Sylvilagus brasiliensis has a gestation period of 42 to 45 days. A small litter size of 2 is common. In Paraguay, a female with three embryos was collected. (Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Macdonald , 2001)

Sylvilagus brasiliensis apparently reproduce only once per year. Females have a cycle in which the interbirth interval is about 270 days. In Misiones province, Argentina, females reproduce in September. (Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Macdonald , 2001)

Rabbits of this genus are typically precocial. They are born with their eyes open, and are able to leave the nest by the age of 12 to 18 days. In some species, sexual maturity can be reached by the age of 80 days, although most species appear to wait until the following year to mate. Adult size may be attained by 23 to 30 weeks. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    These rabbits apparently breed once per year.
  • Breeding season
    Females breed in August, producing their litters in September.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 6
  • Average number of offspring
    1.9
  • Range gestation period
    26 to 30 days
  • Range weaning age
    14 to 18 days

No information was found on S. brasiliensis reproductive parental care. However, based upon the patterns in the genus, we can assume that the young are precocial, and that they leave the nest, becoming independent within three weeks of birth. (Nowak, 1999)

The female probably provides the bulk of parental care, nursing the young, grooming them, and keeping them safe in the nest until they are ready to disperse. There are no reports of male parental care in the genus. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

There are no reports of the longevity of this species. However, congeners are known to live as long as 5 years in the wild, and have lived longer than 9 years in captivity. (Nowak, 1999)

Behavior

Sylvilagus brasiliensis is crepuscular and nocturnal. It is usually found solitary or in pairs. It may show a seasonal decline in abundance. (Eisenberg and Redford, 1999; Mares, et al., 1989)

Cottontail rabbits are quadrupedal, and move both by hopping and walking. They can swim when needed. They are known to keep very still, which is thought to be a possible mechanism to avoid the notice of predators. When chased by predators, these rabbits typically move in an erratic, zig-zag fashion, possibly helping them to escape larger animals which cannot follow their course. (Nowak, 1999)

Other members of this genus are not known to dig burrows, but females do dig holes or depressions for their nests. The nests are lined with grasses and fur. Females don't live in the nest with the young, they just huddle over it to nurse the babies. (Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

The home range size for this species has not been reported.

Communication and Perception

No information was found on S. brasiliensis communication. However, other members of the genus are known to communicate with high pitched squeals and distress calls. As mammals, it is likely that they use scent cues. Tactile communication probably occurs between mates, rivals, and a mother and her offspring. (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Sylvilagus brasiliensis forages on green vegetation of grass and shrubs. (Mares, et al., 1989)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves

Predation

Predation on S. brasiliensis has been reported in the western Amazon, in Acre, Brazil. A tayra, a neotropical mustelid, was seen running in pursuit of S. brasiliensis, but retreated when the observer was detected. Various canids and felids probably also prey on this species. (Calouro, 2000)

Other members of the genus Sylvilagus are known to remain very still for prolonged periods, possibly as a means of avoiding detection by predators using visual cues to catch prey. These rabbits are also known for their erratic flight from predators, in which they move in complex zig-zag patterns, possibly helping them to escape the predator. (Nowak, 1999)

Ecosystem Roles

Sylvilagus brasiliensis is likely prey for numerous medium and large carnivores. It probably affects vegetational communities through its foraging. (Macdonald , 2001)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Rabbits are an important game species in many parts of South America, and are an important source of protein in many rural areas.

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No information was found on an negative impact that this species might have on humans.

Conservation Status

Sylvilagus brasiliensis is not protected under CITES or IUCN.

Other Comments

Sylvilagus brasiliensis is the only native rabbit in Argentina; other forms were introduced in the late 1800's. (Mares, et al., 1989)

This species is also commonly known as the forest rabbit and Tapiti. (Macdonald , 2001)

The Myxoma virus is commonly found in S. brasiliensis. Blood-feeding arthropod vectors, such as mosquitoes or fleas, mainly transmit this virus. Myzoma virus commonly causes a swelling of the face and head, resulting in mucoid cutaneous tumors. (Kerr and Best, April, 1998)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Janet Buresh (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor, instructor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

Glossary

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

crepuscular

active at dawn and dusk

endothermic

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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

iteroparous

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).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

natatorial

specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

saltatorial

specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

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).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

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.

savanna

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.

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Calouro, A. 2000. Attempted Predation on Brazilian rabbit. Revista-de-Biologia-Tropical, 48 (1): 267-268.

Eisenberg, J., K. Redford. 1999. Mammals of the Neotropices, The Central Neotropics, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

Kerr, P., S. Best. April, 1998. Myxoma virus in rabbits. Revue-Scientifique-et-Technique-Office-International-des-Epizooities, 17 (1): 256-268.

Macdonald , D. e. 2001. Pp. 721 in The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Andromeda Oxford Limited.

Mares, M., R. Ojeda, R. Barqueq. 1989. Guide to the Mammals of Salta Province Argentina.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.