Fun Fact Friday: How Do You Survive in the Big Empty? These Lagomorphs Use Superpower Adaptations, of Course.
By Nancy Patterson, Public Affairs Specialist, Greater Sage-Grouse Rocky Mountain Region
It’s wide open in the Big Empty of sagebrush country. For the more than 350 species that live here, hiding spots are few and horizons are long. When you’re a favorite food of lots of predators you need special adaptations to survive. Lagomorphs are adaptation champs in this ecosystem. The term lagomorph describes mammals in the order of lagomorpha, better known as hares, rabbits, and pikas. In sagebrush country, some lagomorphs you might see are jackrabbits, cottontails, and pygmy rabbits.
Rabbits and hares have big eyes set on the sides of their heads. This gives them a wide viewpoint to look around for threats. Their large ears act like giant microphones to capture the slightest sound. And their long back feet act as a speedy superpower. With them they can spring into the air and dart quickly in a jig-jag pattern to escape predators. Jackrabbits can run at speeds of 40 miles per hour and their powerful hind legs can propel them in 10-foot leaps with each bound. Imagine trying to keep up with one of these athletic racers!
But, it’s tough to survive on big feet, eyes, and ears alone. It also helps to have superpower hiding adaptations. And rabbits and hares have some that act just like invisibility cloaks.