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Unlike the Easter Bunny, these rabbits can't hop. Scientists have solved the mystery of the 'hand-standing' bunnies.

Published by Business Insider on Sun, 04 Apr 2021


<p><img src="https://static1.businessinsider.com/image/60646a01daf0f10018f992b4-376/Screenshot 2021-03-31 at 13.22.51.png" border="0" alt="Sauteur d'Alfort rabbits hopping" data-mce-source="Carneiro et al, PLoS Genetics" data-mce-caption="The typical posture of a Sauteur d'Alfort rabbit when walking." data-link="https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article'id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1009429#abstract1"></p><p></p><bi-shortcode id="summary-shortcode" data-type="summary-shortcode" class="mceNonEditable" contenteditable="false">Summary List Placement</bi-shortcode><p>Sauteur d'Alfort rabbits, also known as Alfort jumping rabbits, have a peculiar way of moving.</p><p>Instead of hopping on their hind legs, like other bunnies, the Sauteur d'Alfort rabbits lift their back legs from the ground and 'hand-stand' on their forelegs.</p><p>They then scurry forward on their front paws, maintaining their balance.</p><p><em><strong>Read more: </strong><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/10-companies-hoping-you-change-your-mind-about-eating-bags-of-worms-and-fried-cricket-2021-3" data-e2e-name="inline-read-more-link">Here are 10 companies hoping to cash in on the boom in edible worms and crickets</a></em></p><p>Ever since the species was first discovered in 1935, scientists have been baffled as to why the furry creatures are unable to hop or jump like most other rabbits.</p><p>Academics from <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article'id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1009429#abstract1">PLoS Genetics</a> a peer-reviewed scientific journalnow have an explanation, <a href="https://gizmodo.com/these-mutant-rabbits-walk-on-two-legs-and-geneticists-1846562358">Gizmodo</a> reported.</p><biembeddedobject id="6fe05b36-0ef9-4595-95b4-ec68bea29e8c" class="youtube mceNonEditable" style="width: 560px; height: 315px;">Youtube Embed: <br>//www.youtube.com/embed/_naNBAW80kk <br>Width: 560px <br>Height: 315px</biembeddedobject><p>The unusual gait can be explained by a genetic mutation, the study found.</p><p>This species has a warped RORB gene, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/56535898">BBC Newsround</a> said. "This was the only mutation that stood out as really striking," Miguel Carneiro, an academic at the University of Porto, told the media outlet.</p><p>A mutation in the RORB gene can result in the loss of spinal cord interneurons.</p><p>"When you move, these neurons fire all the time, they coordinate muscle contractions and know if the other limbs are in balance," Leif Andersson, a co-author of the study, told Gizmodo. "This coordination of muscle contraction is not correct in these rabbits."</p><p>In the Sauteur D'Alfort rabbits, these interneurons were either less abundant or totally absent, the study said. This, in turn, results in the loss of saltatorial locomotion &nbsp; the ability to jump or hop.</p><p>The hand-standing is a result of the rabbits working around their inability to travel like other species, the study said.</p><p>Baby rabbits of this species learn, after a few months, to walk solely on their front legs to compensate for the genetic mutation and consequent spinal defects, the <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/2272406-some-rabbits-walk-on-their-front-feet-with-their-back-legs-in-the-air/">New Scientist</a> said.</p><p>It's unlikely that the quirky gait causes the animals any pain, Gizmodo reported.</p><p>The team of 12 scientists solved the mystery of the hand-standing rabbits after an experiment involving the breeding of a Sauteur d'Alfort rabbit with another species that can hop and jump normally, Slate reported.</p><p>The scientists then sequenced the DNA of the 50 or so descendants, the <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/genetic-mutation-replaces-bunny-hops-handstands-180977365/">Smithsonian Magazine</a> said.</p><p>Some of the baby rabbits had hand-standing gaits and scientists were able to identify the mutation in the code at the RORB gene in these animals, the magazine added.</p><p>Previous studies have shown that RORB mutations in other animals, such as mice, can interfere with normal movement. RORB-deficient mice waddle like ducks, the PLoS study said.</p><p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/watchhand-standing-bunnies-that-cant-hop-on-their-hind-legs-2021-3#comments">Join the conversation about this story &#187;</a></p> <p>NOW WATCH: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/navy-usns-comfort-hospital-ship-new-york-coronavirus-covid-19-2020-3">How the Navy's largest hospital ship can help with the coronavirus</a></p>
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