Tehuantepec jackrabbit (Lepus flavigularis)

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Female Tehuantepec jackrabbit, having recently given birth
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Tehuantepec jackrabbit fact file

Tehuantepec jackrabbit description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderLagomorpha
FamilyLeporidae
GenusLepus (1)

The Tehuantepec jackrabbit is the most endangered hare species in the world (2) (5) (6), and, like other hares (Lepus spp.), is recognised by its long legs, large hind feet and huge ears (2) (7) (8), which can measure up to 12 centimetres in length (2). The hair is coarse (2), and the feet are well furred (7). The upperparts of the body are a rich ochraceous buff, washed through with black, and the back of the neck bears a buffy stripe, which separates two narrow, black stripes that extend backwards from the base of each ear. The ears are buff coloured, with whitish tips, while the throat is yellowish and the underparts and flanks are white. The legs and rump are pale whitish to grey, and the tail is grey below and black above (2) (5). In spring, the fur may become more worn, with the upperparts faded to a more yellowish colour and the black stripes on the neck visible only as black patches behind the ears (2).

The Tehuantepec jackrabbit may show some variation across its range, with individuals from Santa María del Mar significantly larger than, and genetically distinct from, those in other areas (3) (9). The Tehuantepec jackrabbit is similar in appearance to the white-sided jackrabbit, Lepus callotis, but the latter has larger ears and lacks the distinctive neck colouration of this species (2).

Also known as
Tehuantepec hare, Tehuantepec jack rabbit, tropical hare.
Spanish
Liebre De Tehuantepec, Liebre Tehuana.
Size
Total length: 53 - 61 cm (2) (3)
Tail length: 6.5 - 9.5 cm(2)
Weight
2.5 - 4 kg (4)
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Tehuantepec jackrabbit biology

The Tehuantepec jackrabbit is most active at night or at dawn and dusk (1) (2) (5) (7) (8), resting under cover during the day (4) (10). Like most other hares, it does not dig burrows, but instead relies on camouflage and its strong running ability to escape danger. The diet is likely to consist of grass and other vegetation, although twigs, barks and cultivated plants may possibly be taken if other alternatives are unavailable (7) (8).

Tehuantepec jackrabbits occupy overlapping home ranges, and are believed to be non-territorial and to have a polygamous mating system (4) (11) (12). The lengthy breeding season may last from February to December, peaking during the rainy season between May and October (1) (12). Average litter size is two (1). As in other hares, the young, known as leverets, are born in an open place and are well developed at birth, being fully furred, with the eyes open, and able to move about shortly after birth. The female leaves the young concealed in dense vegetation, visiting to nurse them for perhaps only one brief period each day (7) (8). Young hares may be weaned in as little as 17 to 23 days (8), and in this species reach maturity at six to seven months, with individuals capable of breeding in the first year of life (1) (4).

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Tehuantepec jackrabbit range

The Tehuantepec jackrabbit has the most southerly distribution of any Lepus species in North America (2), being restricted to southern Mexico, around the Gulf of Tehuantepec (2) (5) (7) (8). Thought to have once occurred from Salina Cruz, in the state of Oaxaca, to the extreme west of the state of Chiapas (2) (5), it may now exist only in Oaxaca (1).

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Tehuantepec jackrabbit habitat

This species inhabits grassland with scattered shrub and tree cover, shrub forest, and coastal grassy dunes which never exceed a four to five kilometre wide strip along the shores of salt water lagoons (1) (2) (4) (5) (10). It is not found above elevations of about 500 metres (1).

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Tehuantepec jackrabbit status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Tehuantepec jackrabbit threats

The Tehuantepec jackrabbit has a small and declining range, and is now found in only four small and isolated populations, with a total population size estimated at fewer than 1,000 individuals (1) (6). The main threats to the species are habitat loss and hunting, with grasslands converted to agriculture, pasture or settlement, or degraded by human-induced fires and introduced grasses, and with hares shot for sport (1) (2) (5) (7). The species is also hunted for food, and conservation laws are not being enforced (6). Low genetic variation in the tiny remaining population may pose an additional threat (1), potentially leading to inbreeding.

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Tehuantepec jackrabbit conservation

The Tehuantepec jackrabbit is listed as Critically Endangered by the Mexican government (1) (13), but conservation laws are not well enforced by local authorities (1), and the areas the species inhabits are unprotected (10). Effective protection of the species’ habitat is urgently needed, together with the preservation of its natural structure and diversity (4) (10). Other recommended conservation actions for the Tehuantepec jackrabbit include better regulation of hunting, further research into the species, captive breeding, education programmes (2), and further surveys to clarify the extent of its distribution (14). It may also be important to recognise and manage the genetically distinct populations as individual units, in order to avoid further loss of genetic diversity in this highly endangered species (9).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

To find out more about the Tehuantepec jackrabbit and its conservation see:

For more information on the conservation of hares and rabbits see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Home range
The area occupied by an animal during routine activities, which is not actively defended.
Inbreeding
The breeding of closely related individuals. An inbred population usually has less genetic variability and this is generally disadvantageous for its long-term survival and success.
Polygamous
Mating with more than one partner in the same season.
Territorial
Describes an animal, a pair of animals or a colony that occupies and defends an area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Cervantes, F.A. (1993) Lepus flavigularis. Mammalian Species, 423: 1-3. Available at:
    http://www.science.smith.edu/departments/Biology/VHAYSSEN/msi/pdf/i0076-3519-423-01-0001.pdf
  3. Rico, Y., Lorenzo, C. and López, S. (2008) Diferenciación poblacional en la talla corporal de la liebre de Tehuantepec (Lepus flavigularis). Acta Zoológica Mexicana, 24(3): 179-189.
  4. Farías, V. (2004) Spatio-temporal ecology and habitat selection of the critically endangered tropical hare (Lepus flavigularis) in Oaxaca, Mexico. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Massachusetts.
  5. Chapman, J.A. and Flux, J.E.C. (1990) Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Lagomorph Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland. Available at:
    http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/1990-010.pdf
  6. Farías, V., Fuller, T.K., Cervantes, F.A. and Lorenzo, C. (2008) Conservation of critically endangered lagomorphs: the Tehuantepec jackrabbit (Lepus flavigularis) as an example. In: Alves, P.C., Ferrand, N. and Hackländer, K. (Eds.) Lagomorph Biology: Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg.
  7. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  8. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  9. Rico, Y., Lorenzo, C., González-Cózatl, F.X. and Espinoza, E. (2008) Phylogeography and population structure of the endangered Tehuantepec jackrabbit Lepus flavigularis: implications for conservation. Conservation Genetics, 9: 1467-1477.
  10. Farías, V. and Fuller, T.K. (2009) Native vegetation structure and persistence of endangered Tehuantepec jackrabbits in a neotropical savanna in Oaxaca, México. Biodiversity and Conservation, 18(7): 1963-1978.
  11. Farías, V., Fuller, T.K., Cervantes, F.A. and Lorenzo, C. (2006) Home range and social behavior of the endangered Tehuantepec jackrabbit (Lepus flavigularis) in Oaxaca, Mexico. Journal of Mammalogy, 87(4): 748-756.
  12. Rioja, T., Lorenzo, C., Naranjo, E., Scott, L. and Carrillo-Reyes, A. (2008) Polygynous mating behavior in the endangered Tehuantepec jackrabbit (Lepus flavigularis). Western North American Naturalist, 68(3): 343-349.
  13. Norma Oficial Mexicana NOM-059-ECOL-2001 (February, 2010)
    http://www.semarnat.gob.mx/leyesynormas/Normas%20Oficiales%20Mexicanas%20vigentes/NOM-ECOL-059-2001.pdf
  14. Lorenzo, C., Cervantes, F.A., Barragán, F. and Vargas, J. (2006) New records of the endangered Tehuantepec jackrabbit (Lepus flavigularis) from Oaxaca, Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist, 51(1): 116-119.
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Image credit

Female Tehuantepec jackrabbit, having recently given birth  
Female Tehuantepec jackrabbit, having recently given birth

© Tamara Rioja Paradela

Tamara Rioja Paradela
trioja@oikos.org.mx
http://www.oikos.org.mx

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