Population genetics to aid in saving the critically endangered Florida Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit, Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, a subspecies named after Hugh Hefner.
A subspecies of the Florida Lower Keys Marsh Rabbit, discovered in 1984, was named Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, after the world’s most famous playboy, in honor of his organization’s contribution to support field research. In 1990, the rabbits were declared endangered, and now Sylvilagus palustris hefneri is classified as Critically Endangered, with a population of less than 300.
The subspecies S. p. hefneri meets IUCN Red List Criteria B1ab(ii) and B2ab(ii) for Critically Endangered.
According to a UCF news release, a specialized team of scientists has been awarded a grant to conduct field research on the rabbits in the Everglades and Florida Keys. The team is comprised of UCF Assistant Professor Eric Hoffman, USFWS endangered species biologist Philip Huges, and graduate teaching assistant Rosanna Tursi, who has degrees in Molecular Biology, Microbiology, and Biotechnology.
Factors contributing to the current population decline:
- Destruction of natural habitat
- Human population growth and development
- Vehicular conflict
- Predation by domestic dogs and cats
The team hopes to create a new population of the rabbits after identifying the most genetically diverse groups and relocating them to a suitable habitat in an effort to restore the subspecies.
Image source: istock.com