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Rabbit Ears: Double Duty

The first thing you notice about a rabbit is its oversized ears which, as one might guess, enhance its ability to hear. The two ears can move independently of each other and can be rotated 270 degrees.

In addition to being designed to catch sound from any direction, rabbit ears regulate a rabbit’s body temperature. There is a very extensive network of blood vessels in a rabbit’s ears that provide a large surface area for heat exchange. These vessels swell (vasodilation) when the rabbit is hot, and contract (vasoconstriction) when it is cool, so much so that they are barely visible in cold weather. In the summer, the increased circulation of warm blood from the body’s core to the rabbit’s ears, where heat is lost to the cooler surrounding air, provides internal air-conditioning for the rabbit. (Photo: Eastern Cottontail)

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8 responses

  1. Bill on the Hill

    Nice image on what appears to be a healthy young rabbit Mary…
    I have extensive files on these rabbits & typically their ears are missing chunks of skin & fur from presumably battling over sexual rights, not to sure on that score, but more typically their ears are covered with numerous ticks as well as around their respective facial areas…
    All the best,
    Bill… :~)

    July 26, 2021 at 8:37 am

  2. We only have snowshoe hares here, but as Bill commented, the ears are often covered in ticks. These are not dog or deer ticks, but rabbit ticks, Haemaphysalis leporispalustris, Its common hosts are rabbits hares and sometimes ground-feeding birds.H. leporispalustris does not play a prominent role in disease transmission in humans but is a vector for disease in other animals. (This from wikipedia.) It is interesting how species-specific many ticks are!

    July 26, 2021 at 8:51 am

  3. Susan Capparelle

    I never knew that Mary. Very interesting

    July 26, 2021 at 8:52 am

  4. I have never seen a rabbit while living in SE Vt for 25 years, sometimes walking a dog but quite often on my own. But I did see them occasionally in rural Long Island where I grew up.

    July 26, 2021 at 11:11 am

  5. Alice

    We have 2 resident bunnies in our small neighborhood…usually well camouflaged

    July 26, 2021 at 1:19 pm

  6. Pat Nelson

    I was wishing I had the same heat-exchange feature until I read about the ticks!

    July 26, 2021 at 1:29 pm

  7. What kind of rabbit is this?! I always want to call them Jack Rabbits, But I think a Jack Rabbit is a very large rabbit in a much warmer climate? Please advise! BTW your donate button link is partial, therefore it is not working correctly! Thank You! http://www.naturallycuriouswithmaryholland.wordpress.com%26nbsp/

    July 26, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    • The photo is of an eastern cottontail, but these adaptations are true for jackrabbits as well as cottontails, or even more so. You find jackrabbits, a type of hare, in the West. Thank you for letting me know about the donate button. Trying to fix!

      July 29, 2021 at 5:35 pm

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