Habitat

Pikas occupy two distinctly different habitats. The two North American pikas and roughly half of the species in Asia live in rocks or boulder fields and do not dig burrows. These pikas utilize vegetation found in meadows at the talus edge or growing in small patches within the rocks. In special circumstances rock-dwelling pikas are "fooled" into occupying areas with the general physiognomy of rock piles, but which are not, such as heaps of fallen logs.

A marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris) in saltmarsh of Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida, USA. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Maresa Pryor. Reproduced by permission.)

The remainder of the pikas, all Asian species, live in meadow, steppe, shrub, or open desert environments where they dig burrows. Rarely are two burrowing species found in the same locality, but a burrowing pika can occur in meadow habitat that abuts the habitat of a talus-dwelling pika.

The true hares (genus Lepus) in general prefer open country high arctic tundra, steppe, agricultural pasture, tropical savanna, and desert. Within these habitats some form of cover (shrubs or rocks) is needed for protection from predators (in particular, birds of prey). Hares also use cover for protection from the elements, and generally run into the open to avoid predators. A few Lepus spp. live in forests, such as the snow-shoe hare (L. americanus), Manchurian hare (L. mandshuricus), and some populations of mountain hare (L. timidus).

No single vegetative community typifies the habitat of cottontail rabbits (genus Sylvilagus). Some are found in marshy areas (S. aquaticus, S. palustris), many occupy forested regions (e.g., S. brasiliensis, S. cunicularius, S. graysoni, S. insonus), and other brushy situations (e.g., S. bachmani, S. floridanus, S. man-suetus, S. nuttallii, S. transitionalis). The closely related pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis) requires big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) habitat for its existence.

Several rabbits are endemic to Africa. The riverine rabbit (Bunolagus monticularis) specializes on dense riparian growth along seasonal rivers in the central Karoo region of South Africa. All three species of rockhare (genus Pronola-gus) are true to their common name, being restricted to

With the ability to reach speeds up to 64 mi (103 km) per hour, the Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus) is able to outrun many of its predators. (Photo by Mark Bradley/Boreal Nature Photos. Reproduced by permission.)

rocky situations in association with grass or scrub vegetation. The bunyoro rabbit (Poelagus marjorita) also is associated with rocky outcrops occurring in moist savanna or open shrub woodlands.

The hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) of India and Nepal is dependent on early successional riverine communities, typically comprised of tall dense grasslands. Both Nesolagus spp. from Sumatra and southeast Asia occupy dense tropical forest. The Zacatuche or volcano rabbit (Romerolagus diazi) of the highlands of central Mexico lives in open pine forests with an understory of thick bunch grass called zacaton. The zacaton is required for food, cover, and protection for this species. The Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi) of Japan lives in primary forest, but also has been found to occupy forest edges and secondary forests. Finally, the common European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a denizen of open grasslands with well-drained, loosely compacted soils for constructing their warrens, although it is eminently adaptable and found in non-typical situations.

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