Why aren't rabbits green?

p-m agapow agapow at latcs1.lat.oz.au
Sun Oct 27 21:43:23 EST 1996

John R. Campbell <campbejr at phu989.mms.sbphrd.com> wrote:
> mholmes at uvaix.uvic.ca (MartinHolmes) writes: 
> >
> >Given the fact that rabbits are rather defenceless prey animals that
> >spend almost all of their life outside the warren eating against a
> >green background, why haven't they evolved to be green? And why has no
> >other similar mammal evolved green skin or fur, while many insects
> >have?

Despite many ingenious ideas having been suggested in this thread, I
find them all somewhat unsatisfactory. They may be decent explainations
for the rabbit but they don't explain the obvious wider question :
Why aren't there any green mammals?

(Unfortunate but necessary disclaimer: after a brief search I haven't
been able to find note of any green mammal. The existence of one may
render this line of questioning moot.) There are green birds, insects,
snakes, reptiles, fish - no mammals. Interesting.

> Well, I suspect that green fur would make it more difficult for them
> (despite no color vision?) to find mates.  A fur color that fades too
> well into the background would be a mechanism selected _against_.

John's comments provoked another thought. Sometimes the colour that is
best for hiding is less than obvious. For example, desert camoflage is
often a subdued but distinct pink colour.


Paul-Michael Agapow (agapow at latcs1.oz.au) La Trobe Uni

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