HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Evolution of the Rabbit

Hope everyone is enjoying a great day!  Here is a lovely evoluationary tale about how we got the rabbits that we know and love today.  Thanks to DarkSyde from DailyKos for the site and the interesting information:

Rabbit Even as a young skeptic Easter Sunday was exciting for me. As children, my sisters and I could always count on finding a basket full of yummy chocolate treats waiting for us on Easter morning. How exactly the most important date in the Christian calendar came to be associated with an anthropomorphic pagan rabbit hiding colored candy eggs is a story for another day. But real rabbits also have a story. One every bit as interesting, and as fun for the whole family, as Peter Cottontail's.

Rabbits are mammals of course and at first glance they appear to fall in with squirrels, mice, chipmunks and a bunch of other adorable little critters that make up the most successful order of mammals on earth today: rodents. The first proto-mammals are often referred to collectively as cynodonts, some looked and acted an awful lot like modern rodents, and they really did lay eggs! Cynodonts appear in the fossil record during the Permian over 250 million years ago and slowly evolved into placental mammals that give birth to live young.

Unlike the familiar large mammals we know today, those rodent-sized pioneers didn't have to wait for dinos to fade into natural history before they could inherit the wind. They were already thriving along side the reptilian titans long before the solar system cruelly tossed a space mountain into the Yucatan 65 million years ago. As luck would have it, with their furry insulation, small size and short generations, varied diet, and warm burrows, small mammals were especially equipped to survive and adapt in the harsh aftermath of the K-T Extinction. And that’s where the rabbit picture gets fuzzy. . . .

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