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Science unravels the mystery of a rabbit walking in the head




Typical posture of’sauteur d’Alfort’ rabbits.

Sputnik / Bolivian newspaper

Known as the “Alfort Jumper”, the rabbit is the best style of tightrope walking and is famous for walking upright on its front legs. Discovered in 1935, these rabbits have puzzled scientists for decades. Only in 2021 can we explain this behavior. This discovery may also be useful to humans.

The walking rabbit was the best style of acrobatics, supported only by its front legs. This image belongs to nature itself, not the circus, and it wasn’t until 2021 that science could explain it 85 years later.

To be sure, not all rabbits use all four legs to jump and run at high speeds.

In 1935, the French veterinarian Etienne Lettered first described the behavior of these rabbits. Since then, it has been known by the French name Sotur d’Alfort, the jumper of Alfort. Despite documenting them, Lettered could not definitively explain why the rabbit did this.

A group of researchers led by Miguel Carneiro of the University of Porto and Jennifer Bierard of Uppsala University investigated the specific gait of these rabbits.

Published in the journal PLOS Genetics on March 25, and cited by the specialized journal Science News, the study attributed rabbit behavior to a mutation in a gene known as RORB. This result indicates that mutations in rabbits “dramatically reduce” the RORB gene in the spinal cord.

One of the results of this study was that the presence of this gene was required for the jumping movement, which is the normal walking method for rabbits based on small jumps.

Researchers confirmed this in two experiments. The first is a mouse that has begun to walk on its front legs after undergoing a genetic mutation. Then, the rabbit itself and the rabbit with genetic dysfunction are mated with other rabbits that do not have this condition. By analyzing their youth, they found that the mutation was not found in rabbits that could jump.

Leif Andersson, one of the Swedish geneticists involved in the study, found that mutations in the RORB gene could affect interneurons in the spinal cord, helping the body adjust the left and right parts of the body. Explained to Science News. Due to the lack of RORB protein in interneurons, rabbits cannot regulate what their hind limbs are doing and may lose their ability to jump.

The results of the study are not only decisive for understanding these particular rabbits, but scientists say how all animals, including humans, need to adjust their limbs to run. May contribute to the elements for understanding.

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