What are some adaptations of the jackrabbit

The rabbit with the donkey ears

The jackrabbit is perfectly adapted to life in the semi-desert. It can give off body heat through the ears.

The rabbit has "the most absurd ears that have ever been put on an animal, apart from the donkey". Mark Twain wrote this in his semi-autobiographical book «Roughing It», published in 1872, and therefore called him «jackass rabbit» (donkey rabbit). Later it became «jackrabbit». And so the showy desert dweller, who is not a rabbit despite the name, is still called today. In German it is called donkey bunny.

Lepus californicus, so its scientific name, lives in the dry and hot semi-deserts, steppes and prairies in the southwest of the USA and in Mexico. Its preferred habitat are areas in which plants such as the creosote bush or the sagebrush thrive and where shrubs and grasses can also be found. Donkey hares feed on various plants in the evening and at night. During the day, bushes serve as protection, for example from eagles, hawks, coyotes, wild cats or other predators.

The elephants do it that way too

The 50 to 60 centimeters tall and two to three kilograms heavy rabbits have adapted perfectly to life in the semi-desert. For one, they are pretty well camouflaged with their yellow-brown-black fur. On the other hand, they can get practically all of the water they need to live from their food. To do this, the water content of the plants must be at least 80 percent. And then the Jackrabbits also have a sophisticated heat regulation system.

That brings us to our ears. The fact that these are so big has nothing to do with the fact that donkey bunnies hear particularly well, but rather that they can give off warmth with them. To do this, they pump blood into the fine veins of the ears, where the excess body heat is then radiated into the environment. This air conditioning system works even at temperatures of up to 30 degrees.

Other animals also use their ears to give off heat, such as African elephants. Then there is the giant-eared jerboa from the Mongolian desert. Their ears are two-thirds as long as their bodies - that's a record in the animal kingdom.

Many animal species that are at home in hot and dry habitats have special adaptations that enable them to cope with heat, lack of water and other hardships. In our weekly summer series, the Wissen editorial team introduces some of the most remarkable animals.

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