Animal Info - Volcano Rabbit

(Other Names: 火山兔, 墨西哥兔; メキシコウサギ; Coelho dos vulcões; Conejo de Díaz, Conejo del Volcano, Conejo de los Volcanes, Conejo Zacatuche, Lapin de Diaz, Lapin des Volcans, Mexican Pygmy Rabbit, Mexikanisches Vulkankaninchen; Teporingo, Zacatuche)

Romerolagus diazi

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Volcano Rabbit #1 (12 Kb JPEG) (AMCELA); Volcano Rabbit #2 (12 Kb JPEG)

The volcano rabbit weighs 390 - 600 g (0.86 - 1.3 lb). It is generally found between 2800 and 4250 m (9200 - 13,900') in pine forests with a dense undergrowth of bunch grass ("zacaton") and rocky substrates. The volcano rabbit feeds on the green leaves of zacaton grasses, the young leaves of spiny herbs and the bark of alder trees. It is mostly nocturnal and crepuscular. It lives in groups of 2 - 5 animals in runways and burrows among grass tussocks. The burrows can be as long as 5 m (16') and as much as 40 cm (1.3') underground. There are usually 2 or 3)young per litter, born in an underground nest.

Since at least the early 1900's the volcano rabbit has apparently been restricted to the slopes of several volcanos and adjacent ridges bordering the Valley of Mexico on the east and south, near Mexico City. As of 1990, Its distribution was restricted mainly to three discontinuous areas of core habitat covering a total of approximately 280 sq km (110 sq mi) on the slopes of four volcanoes.

The most serious threats to the volcano rabbit are habitat degradation and target shooting. A variety of factors appear to be responsible for the continued degradation of the rabbit's forest/zacaton habitat. These include forest fires, overgrazing by cattle and sheep, encroachment by development and agriculture, over-exploitation of timber and cutting of zacaton grasses for thatch and brush manufacture.


Tidbits

*** Unlike most rabbits, it maintains a system of runways through the dense tussocks of grass it inhabits.

*** The volcanic sierras on which this rabbit is found form part of a feature called the "transverse neovolcanic axis", which spans the approximately 1000 km (620 mi) width of central Mexico between 18 deg and 22 deg N.

*** The volcano rabbit is restricted to the volcanic slopes near Mexico City, within a 45 minute drive of 17 million people. As a result it is subjected to the pressures of habitat degradation, tourism and hunting.

*** Hunters looking for quail and other game birds use the rabbit for target practice. The country people of the mountains regard it as vermin to be killed off. Neither the hunters nor the natives eat them.

*** Rabbits (belonging to many different genera) vs. Hares (all in the genus Lepus): The major differences between rabbits and hares include: 1.) their methods in avoiding predators (rabbits hide in dense vegetation or burrows; hares have longer legs and try to outrun predators), and 2.) the characteristics of their young at birth (newborn rabbits ("kittens") are born naked and with their eyes closed; newborn hares ("leverets") are better developed - their eyes are open and they can move around with some degree of coordination) (Mcdonald 2001).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Volcano Rabbit Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Mexico (IUCN 2004).

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

Since at least the early 1900's, the volcano rabbit has apparently been restricted to the slopes of several volcanos and adjacent ridges bordering the Valley of Mexico on the east and south, near Mexico City, mainly in the Distrito Federal and the states of Mexico, Morelos, and Puebla. As of 1990, Its distribution was restricted mainly to three discontinuous areas of core habitat covering a total of approximately 280 sq km (110 sq mi) on the slopes of four volcanoes (Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, El Pelado and Tlaloc). Scattered populations covering about 10 sq km (6 sq mi) were found outside these areas and separated from them by physical barriers such as highways.

Distribution Map #1 (14 Kb) (InfoNatura) 
Distribution Map #2
(36 Kb GIF) (AMCELA)
Distribution Map #3 (33 Kb JPEG) (Spec. Cons. Found.)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

The most serious threats to the volcano rabbit are habitat degradation and target shooting. A variety of factors appear to be responsible for the continued degradation of the rabbit's forest/zacaton habitat. These include forest fires, overgrazing by cattle and sheep, encroachment by development (both from the expansion of Mexico City as well as additional rural settlements near the rabbit's core habitat) and agriculture, over-exploitation of timber and cutting of zacaton grasses for thatch and brush manufacture.


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

The volcano rabbit weighs 390 - 600 g (0.86 - 1.3 lb).

Habitat:

The volcano rabbit is generally found between 2800 and 4250 m (9200 - 13,900') in pine forests with a dense undergrowth of bunch grass ("zacaton") and rocky substrates. It is also found in secondary alder forests with a heavy grass-shrub understory. Most of the areas where the rabbit is found have winter drought and summer rains with a mean annual precipitation of about 1500 mm (60 in).

The volcano rabbit occurs in the Mexican Pine-Oak Forests Global 200 Ecoregion. (Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999)

Gestation Period:

About 40 days.

Birth Season:

The peak breeding season is from March to early July.

Birth Rate:

There are 1 - 4 (usually 2 or 3) young per litter. A captive female produced 1 litter on 19 April and another on 21 August.

Early Development:

The young volcano rabbits are born in an underground nest. They remain in the nest for 2 weeks and begin to eat solid food and move about after 3 weeks.

Dispersal:

In the case of one captive female, the young were independent 25 - 30 days after birth.

Diet:

The volcano rabbit feeds on the green leaves of zacaton grasses, the young leaves of spiny herbs and the bark of alder trees. During the rainy season, it may also eat oats and corn from crops.

Behavior:

The volcano rabbit is mostly nocturnal and crepuscular, although it can also be active by day, particularly when the sky is overcast. It lives in runways and burrows among grass tussocks. The burrows can be as long as 5 m (16') and as much as 40 cm (1.3') underground. The burrow entrance is concealed at the base of a grass tussock.

Social Organization:

Volcano rabbits live in groups of 2 - 5 animals in burrows.


References

AMCELA, Burton & Pearson 1987, Chapman & Flux 1990, Curry-Lindahl 1972, Hoth et al. 1987, InfoNatura, IUCN 1969, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Jansa 1996, Macdonald 1984, Macdonald 2001, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999, Oryx 1980c, Spec. Cons. Found., WCMC/WWF 1997


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Last modified: January 2, 2005;

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