The Mayan Journey | Quintana Roo

Quintana Roo > Ecology

Miguel Amendola

11/24/2022 | Tulum, Quintana Roo

Species: Sylvilagus floridanus

Weight: 1.2 kilos

Size: 43 centimeters

Habitat: From forests, grasslands, and deserts to crop fields

Diet: Plants, herbs, and shrubs

Life expectancy: 15 months in the wild and up to 10 years in captivity

The Florida rabbit, Castilian or Serrano (Sylvilagus floridanus) is one of the most charismatic species in the Yucatán peninsula and the most common; its large quantity contributes to the balance of nature.

Gonzalo Meréndiz Alonso, executive director of the Friends of Sian Ka’an group, said that this animal is one of the many that inhabit different Protected Natural Areas in this area of ​​the country. He mentioned that there are few specialists in this rabbit, but he relied on the information available from researchers throughout the peninsula.

The Florida rabbit is a species of lagomorph mammal of the Leporidae family, one of the most common in North America and its presence extends to Venezuela, in South America. Its physical characteristics are that it is reddish-brown or greyish-brown in color, with large hind legs, long ears, and a short, fluffy white tail. The belly part is white.

The Leporidae are a huge family that includes about 50 species belonging to 11 genera. They are commonly known as rabbits and hares. Both species are very similar and it is very common to confuse them; however, hares are larger in size, with larger ears and limbs than rabbits.

Photo: Andy Wilson

Hares gestate for 42 days, compared to 30 for rabbits. Newborn hares, called hares, are fully developed, already born with hair and with their eyes open, while rabbits are born without hair, with their eyes closed, and are unable to walk or regulate their own temperature.

The adult rabbit weighs an average of 1.2 kilos and is 43 centimeters long and in Mexico it has been observed throughout the country with the exception of Baja California, Baja California Sur and Guerrero. It has the adaptation of living in different environments, including forests, grasslands, deserts and cultivated fields, at altitudes from zero to more than three thousand meters above sea level.

Feeds on many species of plants, grasses, shrubs, and trees, depending on available food. In the natural state its average life is 15 months, although in captivity it can live more than 10 years.

The Castilian rabbit is one of the so-called “cottontails” and is also of great ecological importance, since it feeds on many species of plants and is food for a wide variety of carnivorous animals.

Likewise, this rabbit is hunted by man for recreation (as a pet) and food, being the most hunted animal in the United States and Mexico, since it can also cause economic damage because it eats crops. With potential as an invasive species and outside its natural habitat, it could harm ecosystems and agriculture.

On the other hand, in Mexico, the NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2010 does not consider the mountain rabbit in its lists of species at risk of extinction; the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2019-1 considers it as of least concern.

Photo: Sandy Wolkenberg

The reproductive stage of this species varies depending on the region; in places with marked cold seasons they reproduce when conditions are optimal (summer) while in warm areas they can do so all year round. They have very high reproduction rates, producing up to 35 rabbits per female annually. They can have litters of one to seven rabbits and up to seven litters per year.

Rabbit Sylvilagus floridanus has a wide natural distribution and is the most widely distributed species of the genus. It has also been introduced to the northwestern United States and northwestern Italy as prey for hunters and has become established in these regions due to its ability to adapt to different environments. Even because they have very high reproduction rates and adapt to different environments, they can become an invasive species.

The most important predators for rabbits are mammals, which are responsible for more than 50% of deaths. The second place is occupied by birds of prey, which eat about 25 percent of these species, which is why their survival rate in nature rarely exceeds a year and a half.

Like every Friday, La Jornada Maya invites you to discover the endemic fauna of the Mexican southeast. Here We share the collection we have so far. Enjoy it!

Editing: Laura Espejo

The article is in Spanish

Tags: Mayan Journey Quintana Roo