Press releases


Feb 4 2015

Large structures for the rural extended family, small structures for the urban couple

In the city, rabbits build more densely

FRANKFURT. European wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) not only achieve high population densities in the city, their burrows are also built more densely and on a smaller external scale. That is something researchers in theGoetheUniversity's Task Force on Ecology and Evolution have discovered in their study on wild rabbit populations in and aroundFrankfurt. As they report in the advance version of the Journal of Zoology, small burrow structures with fewer entrances and exits predominate inFrankfurt's inner city. These structures are inhabited by few animals - often only pairs or single wild rabbits. In contrast to this, the structural systems in the rural environs ofFrankfurt are substantially larger and are also inhabited by larger social rabbit groups.

"The optimal habitat for a wild rabbit offers both, access to sufficient nourishment and the opportunity to establish rabbit burrows in very close proximity, or to seek out protective vegetation" explains doctoral candidate Madlen Ziege, a member of Prof. Bruno Streit's team. In rural, often agricultural used areas, with their cleared and open landscapes, these conditions are getting harder to find. Apparently, urban and suburban habitats satisfy the needs of wild rabbits far better.

In view of the fact that in some cities there is already talk of a "rabbit infestation", while in recent years the rabbit population in many rural areas of Germany has declined significantly, the scientists currently want to determine whether in the future urban populations could play a significant role as the source populations for the preservation of this wild animal species in Germany. They are therefore examining the population genetics or dynamics, their use of habitat and the state of health of rural, urban and suburban wild rabbit populations.

Link to the publication:

You can find an image for the download at:

Caption: European wild rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus in the inner city of Frankfurt.

Information: Madlen Ziege, Institute for Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Campus Riedberg, tel.: 015773883101,

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