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Pentalagus furnessi (aka Ryuku Rabbit)
The most primitive lagomorph in the world, almost everything about the Amami Rabbit is distinctive. Its thick, dark brown or black fur fades to reddish brown on the sides and underbelly. It has short ears, small eyes, long curved claws, short legs, pointed nose, and a very small tail.
Amami rabbits are 15-21 inches long and weigh 4-7 pounds. Females are generally slightly larger than males.
Distribution and Habitat
This species is only found on the Amami and Tokuno islands of the Nansei archipelago, off the southwestern coast of Japan. It lives in both new and old growth forests and has also been found in some grassland habitats consisting of ferns and perennials.
Amami rabbits may be promiscuous because the male home ranges overlap with the female home ranges. It is not known whether a single male mates with more than one female, if a female mates with more than one male, or if they both mate with more than one partner.
The gestation period is unknown. It is believed that only young is born per litter, but there may be two litters in a year. The mother gives birth in a burrow, and the young are left in the burrow for up to two days at a time while the mother forages for food. Age at weaning is not known, but the mother will prevent her young from returning "home" after three to four months.
Grasses and ferns appear to make up most of the diet, but nuts, berries, acorns, bark, and leaves are also taken.
Other Habits and Behaviors
Amami rabbits are difficult to study in the wild because they are nocturnal, remaining in their burrows during the day and foraging during the night. They use passages in the undergrowth to move around the forest. When approached, they flee into nearby vegetation.
Swimming has been observed in this species, but the frequency of their swimming behavior is unknown.
Home ranges of males overlap with other males and females, but the home ranges of females do not overlap the home ranges of other females.
This rabbit communicates with auditory signals, mainly vocalizations and sounds made by pounding their hind limbs against the ground.
The Amami Rabbit is listed as endangered due to its limited native range. The current population size is estimated at 2,000 to 4,800 on Amami Island and 120 to 300 on Tokuno Island.
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This page was last updated on October 19, 2018.