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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spy pics from the rabbit's boudoir

The "spy camera" has been creeping closer and closer to jackrabbit's boudoir. Now 30 inches away, it gawks at her like a bold Peeping Tom. I got over 250 still pictures and 66 short movies last week, and she could care less. But I can only expect to find her in this boudoir every second or third day. Obviously she has several.

Here's what I learned. She arrives at her boudoir shortly after 6:00AM, but she doesn’t settle down right away. First she sits attentively with rabbit ears alert. Next, she cleans her hind feet as if they were $250 running shoes. This makes perfect sense, since hers have to last a lifetime, which in her case that would be another 3 years max. Then she washes her face, cleans her forefeet, and licks her breast, sides, and lower back.

She's a very clean animal, except for the business of eating the feces.

When that is about to happen, she gets a certain look, "Oh oh, . . . something's coming!" Then she bends to one side with the flexibility of a contortionist and receives the pasty contents of the caecum, which is a large appendix to the intestine. (View the following 4 photos as a clockwise sequence--they took place in 32 seconds).

If I am reading the photos correctly, the caecum evacuates its contents about every half hour or so, because that's how often she goes through the manuever.

Soft feces isn't the finished fecal product, but it isn't partially digested vegetation either. They reportedly have a protein content of 36% and a water content of 80%. Pelleted feces have 14% protein and 74% water. In rabbits, coprophagy seems to be a way of recycling protein that fails to be absorbed on the first passage through the intestine. In other words, it's a way of extracting maximum protein from food. Thus, rabbits were among the earliest recyclers.

I think it's time to end this post. I am hearing "Something's coming" from West Side Story, and I'm feeling poetic....

"Something's coming, something good,
proteinaceous caecal food, its time to eaaaaattttt!



Best, T. 1996. Lepus californicus. Mammalian Species, No. 530:1-10.
Lechleitner, R.R. 1957. Reingestion in the black-tailed jackrabbit. Journal of Mammalogy, 38:481-485.

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