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1 February 2003 HABITAT-RELATED DIFFERENCES IN RABBIT (ORYCTOLAGUS CUNICULUS) ABUNDANCE, DISTRIBUTION, AND ACTIVITY
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Abstract

The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a key prey species in Mediterranean ecosystems and is ecologically plastic. However, ecological responses of rabbits to different habitats are poorly understood. We present data on abundance, distribution, activity, and survival in 3 neighboring habitats in southwestern Spain differing in refuge and forage availability. Scrubland presents dense cover but low forage abundance; grassland offers little protective vegetation but high food availability; the ecotone provides intermediate levels of both resources. Rabbits reached the highest abundance in ecotone, whereas low food and refuge availability seemed to limit their abundance in scrubland and grassland, respectively. In scrubland, rabbits were dispersed among the cover. In grassland, rabbits were linked to aggregated burrows. In ecotone, rabbits dug burrows in the bordering bushes that abutted grassy feeding pasture. Predation by raptors was low in scrubland, and mortality due to mammalian carnivores was higher in spite of more diurnal rabbit activity. Carnivore predation also caused higher mortality in grassland, where rabbits were more nocturnal. In ecotone, the effect of both mammalian carnivores and raptors on rabbits was similar. Mortality by disease seemed to be linked to level of rabbit aggregation.

Ludgarda Lombardi, Néstor Fernández, Sacramento Moreno, and Rafael Villafuerte "HABITAT-RELATED DIFFERENCES IN RABBIT (ORYCTOLAGUS CUNICULUS) ABUNDANCE, DISTRIBUTION, AND ACTIVITY," Journal of Mammalogy 84(1), 26-36, (1 February 2003). https://doi.org/10.1644/1545-1542(2003)084<0026:HRDIRO>2.0.CO;2
Accepted: 5 June 2002; Published: 1 February 2003
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