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Omilteme cottontail

Sylvilagus insonus

What do they look like?

Omilteme cottontails are large rabbits with long ears, short tails and average sized hind feet. Their ears are dark blackish-brown with a black border and tip. They are greyish-black with a mixture of red and black hairs the back and they have white bellies. The tail is reddish-black on the upper surface and white below. Omilteme cottontails are found with Mexican cottontails and eastern cottontails, but are overall smaller than either of those species.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    2.46 to 2.7 kg
    5.42 to 5.95 lb
  • Range length
    430 to 440 mm
    16.93 to 17.32 in

Where do they live?

Omilteme cottontails have a very limited distribution. They are found only in the Sierra Madre del Sur in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. They occur sympatrically with Mexican cottontails (Sylvilagus cunicularius) and eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus). (Cerballos and Navarro, 1991; Diersing, 1981; Nelson, 1904; Nelson, 1909)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Omilteme cottontails are restricted to heavily wooded, humid forests of the Sierra Madre del Sur. They live in dense undergrowth and create burrows under rocks or other debrus. They are restricted to pine and pine-oak forests. (Diersing, 1981; Nelson, 1904; Nelson, 1909)

  • Range elevation
    2,230 to 5, 280 m
    to ft

How do they reproduce?

Nothing is known about Omilteme cottontail mating systems, although they are thought to be similar to other cottontail species, where males and females meet with multiple mates. (Hall, 1981; Lumpkin and Seidensticker, 2011; Nowak, 1999)

Reproduction in Omilteme cottontails has not been reported in the literature, but is likely to be similar to other cottontail species. Cottontail species generally breed seasonally in the warm months of the year, breed multiple times during the season, and have a gestation length of 28 to 30 days. Females built nests and line them with vegetation and fur and nurse their young in the nest until they become independent, just a few weeks after birth. (Hall, 1981; Nowak, 1999)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Breeding interval in Omilteme cottontails is not known.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season of Omilteme cottontails is not known, but is likely to be from March to August.

Nothing is known of parental investment in Omilteme cottontails, but it is likely to be similar to other cottontails, which construct nests lined with vegetation and shed fur and nurse their young until they become independent at about 2 weeks old. (Hall, 1981; Lumpkin and Seidensticker, 2011; Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

The lifespan of Omilteme cottontails is not known, but may be similar to other cottontail species, which live up to 3 to 5 years in the wild. (Cervantes, et al., 1992; Diersing, 1981; Lumpkin and Seidensticker, 2011; Nelson, 1909)

How do they behave?

Very little is known about Omilteme cottontail behavior. They are nocturnal and may be active at dusk and dawn as well. Like other cottontails, they are usually solitary and are only found with other cottontails in places where there is an abundance of food. (Cervantes, et al., 1992; Lumpkin and Seidensticker, 2011; Nelson, 1904; Nelson, 1909; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

Nothing is known about the home range of this species. (Cerballos and Navarro, 1991)

How do they communicate with each other?

As with most aspects of its biology, there is little known about communication in Omilteme cottontails. Like other cottontails, they are likely to have excellent senses of smell, hearing, and vision and they occasionally use distress and mating calls. (Cervantes, et al., 1992; Hall, 1981; Lumpkin and Seidensticker, 2011)

What do they eat?

Omilteme cottontails are herbivores. Although specific diet preferences are unknown, they are likely to eat grasses and forbs. (Cervantes, et al., 1992; Diersing and Wilson, 1980; Luna and Bousquets, 1993; Nelson, 1909)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • flowers
  • Other Foods
  • dung

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Humans are the only recorded predators of Omilteme cottontails. Pumas, jaguars, Mexican gray wolves, coyotes, and zone-tailed hawks frequent the Sierra Madre del Sur region, and are likely predators of Omilteme cottontails. Like other rabbits, they are cryptically colored and can flee quickly for short distances. (Cervantes, et al., 1992; Chapman and Ceballos, 2013; Monroy-vilchis, 2013; World Wildlife Fund, 2013; cervantes and lorenzo, 1997)

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • cryptic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Omilteme cottontails may impact their habitat through the plants they eat. They are also a food source for many predators. (Hall, 1981; Lumpkin and Seidensticker, 2011)

Do they cause problems?

There are no known negative impacts of Omilteme cottontails on humans.

How do they interact with us?

Omilteme cottontails are hunted by humans for their fur and for a food source and are now considered one of the most endangered rabbits in the world.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Are they endangered?

Omilteme cottontails are extremely rare due to their fragmented habitat and extremely restricted range in Sierra Madre del Sur, Guerrero, Mexico, which is less than 500 square kilometers in size. The last reported sighting of an Omilteme cottontail in the wild was in the early 1900’s; however, there was a possible sighting in 1991. This species was listed as extinct in 1990, endangered in 1994, and critically endangered in 1996. (Cervantes, et al., 1992; Cervantes, et al., 2004; Jimenex, et al., 1993; Nelson, 1904; Nelson, 1909; Romero Malpica and Rangel Cordero, 2013; cervantes and lorenzo, 1997)

Some more information...

Contributors

Christine Quiring (author), University of Manitoba, Jane Waterman (editor), University of Manitoba, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

References

Cerballos, G., D. Navarro. 1991. Diversity and conservation of mexican mammals. Pp. 167-198 in M Mares, D Schmidly, eds. Diversity and Conservation of Mexican Mammals. In: Latin American Mammalogy, Vol. 1, 1 Edition. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.

Cervantes, F., C. Lorenzo, F. Gonzalex-Cozatl. 2004. The Omilteme rabbit (Sylibilagus insonus) is not extinct. Biology of Mammals, 69: 61-64.

Cervantes, F., C. Lorenzo, J. Vargas, T. Holmes. 1992. Sylvilagus cunicularius. journal of mammology, 412: 1-2.

Chapman, J., G. Ceballos. 2013. "IUCN" (On-line). The cottontails. Accessed October 11, 2013 at www.iucnredlist.org.

Diersing, V. 1981. Systematic status of Sylvilagus brasiliensis and S. insonus from North America. Journal of Mammology, 62: 539-556.

Diersing, V., D. Wilson. 1980. Distribution and systematics of the rabbits (Sylvilagus) of west-central Mexico. Journal of Zoology, 297: 1-34.

Hall, R. 1981. Syvilagus. Pp. 312 in Mammals of North America, Vol. 2, 2 Edition. University of Kansas, New York: John Wiley and Sons Inc.

Hershkovitz, P. 1950. Sylvilagus brasiliensis sanctaemartae. Proceedings of the United States National Museum, 100: 353.

Jimenex, A., I. Paniagua, J. Gomez. 1993. Mamfferos in Historia Natural del Parque Ecologico Estatal Omiltemi, Chilpancingo, Guerrero, Mexico. Mexico City: Comision Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad y Universidad Nacional Autonome de Mexico.

Lumpkin, S., J. Seidensticker. 2011. Rabbits: the animal answer guide. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins University Press.

Luna, V., J. Bousquets. 1993. Historia Natural del Parque Ecologico Estatal Omiltemi, Chilpancingo, Guerrero, Mexico. Mexico City: Comision Nocional para el Comocimiento y Uso de la Biodversidad y Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.

Monroy-vilchis, O. 2013. Spatial model of livestock predation by jaguar and puma in Mexico: conservation planning. Biology Conservation, 159: 80-87.

Nelson, E. 1904. Description of seven new rabbits from Mexico. Procedures of Biological Society, 17: 103-110.

Nelson, E. 1909. The rabbits of North America. American Fauna, 29: 9-287.

Nowak, R. 1999. Sylvilagus insonus. Pp. 1045-1046 in E Walker, ed. Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 2, 6 Edition. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.

Romero Malpica, F., H. Rangel Cordero. 2013. "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species" (On-line). Sylvilagus insonus. Accessed October 12, 2013 at www.iucnredlist.org.

Tate, G. 1993. Taxonomic History of the Neotropical Hares of the Genus Sylvilagus, subgenus Tapeti. New York City: The American Museum of Natural History.

World Wildlife Fund, (. 2013. "

Sierra Madre Oriental and Occidental pine-oak forests
" (On-line). World Wildlife Fund. Accessed November 11, 2013 at http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/ecoregions/sierramadre_pineoak_forests.cfm.

cervantes, F., C. lorenzo. 1997. Sylvilagus insonus. Spec, 568: 1-4.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Quiring, C. 2014. "Sylvilagus insonus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 21, 2019 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Sylvilagus_insonus/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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