European wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a widely distributed species with a multiple role in both environmental sustainability and local economy. In the current study we examine the body condition of the species in relation to habitat type, age, sex and seasonality on the island of Lemnos. Body condition was assessed based on a visual estimation of the amount of abdominal fat. A high intra-annual variation in the body condition of the species has been observed, which is further affected by sex and age. The species appears to conserve and maintain high levels of energy reserves for two main reasons. The first is to ensure a better reproductive success, as expressed by the relatively high amount of stored fat reserves at the onset of breeding season, and their depletion during it. The second is to ensure survival during periods where the shortage of food creates a rather hostile environment, as expressed by the increased level of reserves during summer and their dramatic decrease from late summer until autumn. The temporal fluctuation in energy reserves differs between male and female rabbits, reflecting their temporally different energy demands. Further, differences in body conditions were observed between juvenile and adult individuals, reflecting their different needs in terms of body growth and maintenance. Our results could offer important insights for the development of a time specific management plan and measures to ensure either the control of the population or its conservation.
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Vol. 63 • No. 2