May 27, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Cottontail Rabbit in South America Has Many Different Species, Researchers Claim

May 17, 2017 04:56 PM EDT

Researchers have found out that the cottontail rabbit in Suriname is different from those in other parts of America. This shows that South American cottontail rabbit is a different species than its cousins.

A Portland State University biology professor Luis Ruedas found that South American cottontail rabbit, which has been existing for centuries in the continent, is different than other cottontail rabbits. The differences are enough to classify the South American cottontail rabbit as a new species.

Professor Ruedas studied the South American cottontail rabbit from the specimens in Leiden, Netherlands. The rabbits' specimens are stored at the Naturalis museum after being collected from Suriname, a former Dutch colony on the northeast coast of South America. He found the rabbit in Suriname has so many differences in shape and size than other South American cottontail rabbit.

The differences between the South American cottontail rabbit specimens in Suriname are sufficient to classify the rabbit as different species. This classification will make the third species of rabbit in South America after the modern classification system of the animal was created 260 years ago.

Previously, South American cottontail rabbit is considered to be the same species as the same rabbit that live in the United States and Canada. The rabbit is classified as Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, or Sylvilagus floridanus, according to National Geographic. However, with the new discovery from Professor Ruedas, it seems that the South American cottontail rabbit will be categorized as different species than the Eastern cottontail rabbit, living in North America.

Like its cousins, South American cottontail rabbit seeks out the open space as the habitat, such as fields, meadows, and farms. Their diet is vegetables, and foraging their food at night, while they hide in the vegetation during the day. The cottontail rabbit is able to flee from their predator at the speed that can reach 18 miles per hour.

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