MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: will or is it possible for a hare to mate with a cotton tail rabbit

Date: Tue Oct 27 22:24:35 2009
Posted By: dave armstrong, Faculty, Biology, Cedars Tutoring, Qatar
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 1255346779.Zo

Dear Jacob,

You've hit a regular argument with all species that look similar. However the universal truth is that unless the species are recently separated genealogically, there is no chance. While lions and tigers, for example look skightly different, in fact they are very close in their genus group and can indeed mate. Unfortunately, hybrid animals cannot breed themselves, so there are no "grandchildren".

The cottontail or "rabbit" in Ohio is a member of one of three groups of the order Lagomorphs :
the European rabbit type (common nowadays throughout the continents!)
the cottontails, and
the hares.

None of these three groups can breed outside the group and it's doubtful whether even the closely related species - with the same first name (genus)-can mate like the liger or the mule!

This is what happened in an early attempt to breed animals which are obviously not very "compatible!"--------------

"Previous attempts to obtain young from domestic rabbits by insemination with epididymal spermatozoa from hares (Lepus timidus ainu or Lepus europus) have proved unsuccessful. The possibility, however, that fertilization and a limited amount of embryonic development may have occurred has not so far been investigated. Recently, it was found that in rabbits inseminated with epididymal spermatozoa from the eastern cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus), 37 per cent of the eggs were fertilized but degeneration occurred at all stages before or at biastulation. The experiment described here was undertaken to determine whether fertilization occurred in rabbits inseminated with hare spermatozoa and, if so, at what stage development ceased. "
REF.: C.E. ADAMS (1957) An Attempt to cross the Domestic Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and Hare (Lepus europćus) Nature 180, 853.

I hope the scientific approach doesn't put you off but this is a rare objective attempt to do the impossible. It is possible that two hare or rabbit species could interbreed quite easily and it certainly will have happened during the process we call speciation (as new species are formed). However, with the rarity of some species and little interest in groups outside the massive Rodent order, no-one is trying any experiments so far. This answer is a little non-directional, but I intend to do this for you. I want to leave you with the idea that the answer is no, but similar species COULD interbreed. Is that OK with you, Jacob?

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