If you like to go hiking in Arizona, you’ve most likely seen a jackrabbit quickly leap away at one point or another. Easily recognizable with their sizely ears, they aren't actually rabbits at all. Jackrabbits are hares, distinct from rabbits because they are born with hair and do not live in burrows.
Jackrabbits live in desert habitats with hot daytime temperatures. Their ears are an adaptation to deal with heat in the desert. The large thin ears have a network of blood vessels that control blood flow depending on the temperature. The warm blood from the body is circulated to the ears which can then shed the extra heat to the surrounding air. The opposite happens during chilly nights to conserve heat. The use of ears to control body temperature is surprising, but they also serve their obvious purpose as well.
The hairs themselves are herbivores, but are a food source for a number of other creatures. Their predators include coyotes, hawks, eagles, foxes, bobcats and humans. Hence, the large ears are used for self-preservation. They are able to hear predators before attempting to escape at speeds as fast as 40 mph.
In addition, they have other impressive adaptations that make them suitable for an arid environment. Their diet includes a variety of plants containing water and they are also coprophagous. Coprophagous means that they eat their own feces, consuming any droppings still containing moisture.
Jackrabbits are extraordinary; these gorgeous creatures are equipped with camouflaging fur, a hydrating diet, and radiating ears.
written by Kelly Randazzo