These mutant rabbits have been walking on two legs for generations – scientists have finally figured out why
For more than decades a lineage of rabbits in France has walked on its two front legs. A most unusual behavior for rabbits but which has been known about it since 1935 when it was first discovered in a rabbit in Paris. Now, there is finally a rational explanation for it.
The variety of rabbits known as Alfort is the one that shares this particular way of moving. The rabbit, to move, he simply prefers to use his two front legs and walk with them instead of jumping with the hind legs. But in addition to this way of moving, you are also more prone to developing cataracts or going blind.
Today have continued to survive after so many generations and despite natural selection to last only to the most adapted. These rabbits in a natural environment end up disappearing after a few generations since, for example, they cannot run quickly on their two front legs. Why have they survived then? Because scientists have maintained the lineage for decades in order to study what happens there. And they say they found out.
A question of genes
In a study published in PLOS Genetics A group of researchers points out that rabbits with these characteristics actually have a genetic mutation. Analyzing the DNA of this lineage of rabbits and comparing it with others that do not suffer from these characteristics, they have found the problem.
The mutation It is found on the first chromosome called RORB and it refers to a protein of the same name. Poor coordination in the spinal cord between the front and rear legs was expected. When analyzing the rabbits, they realized that there is a significant absence of interneurons due to this mutation, thus causing the rabbits to be unable to jump on their hind legs.
The strange gait of the Alfort rabbits however is not genetically implemented. Namely, that they walk on two front legs is something they do as a solution to not being able to use their back legs, but it is not something born. The researchers say they did not see this cause pain or suffering compared to those who jump and run the orthodox way.
The genetic mutations occur naturally and sometimes they are in favor while other times they are against. It is natural selection in charge of deciding which is the best option over time. However, in recent years genetic changes are increasingly in our hands. Through CRISPR there are those who seek edit human genes to improve future generations, correct 89% of mutations associated with congenital diseases allow it sleep only four hours without being tired, for instance.