Some rabbits stroll on their entrance toes with their again legs within the air

Some rabbits walk on their front feet with their back legs in the air

The sauteur d’Alfort rabbit has a particular strolling type

Carneiro M et al., 2021, PLOS Genetics

Some rabbits can’t hop, and a single gene is the explanation why. Mutations on this gene trigger defects within the rabbits’ spinal cords, which imply they’ll’t coordinate their limbs nicely sufficient to carry out a hop.

The gene might be essential to different types of locomotion in different species, says Leif Andersson at Uppsala College in Sweden. “I’d count on that, if it had been impaired in a human, you’ll additionally get a defect in locomotion.”


Andersson and his colleagues studied a pressure of home rabbits known as sauteur d’Alfort, also called Alfort leaping rabbits. In contrast to most rabbits and different hopping animals like kangaroos, the sauteur d’Alfort bunnies can’t carry out two-footed hops, generally known as “saltatory locomotion”.

“After they stroll slowly, you may’t distinguish them from a traditional rabbit,” says Miguel Carneiro on the College of Porto in Portugal. However after they attempt to go quicker by leaping, they flex their hind legs an excessive amount of and on the fallacious time.

After their first few months of life, the rabbits study to compensate for this by strolling solely on their entrance legs, arching their backs to stay their hind legs into the air.

The crew selectively bred sauteur d’Alfort rabbits and recognized a area of their genome that differed from that of different rabbits. This area contained 21 protein-coding genes. The researchers then sequenced these genes and in contrast them with their counterparts in different sorts of rabbit.

They quickly homed in on a mutation in a gene known as RORB. “This was the one mutation that stood out as actually hanging,” says Andersson.

RORB is essential for the formation of spinal twine neurons that hyperlink the left and proper sides of the physique, that are important for coordinating limb actions. The crew discovered that these body-crossing neurons didn’t kind correctly in new child sauteur d’Alfort rabbits.

Many different genes certainly play a task in locomotion and gait, and their results will typically be refined, says Andersson. RORB is a uncommon case the place a mutation in a single gene produces a dramatic impact, revealing a part of the underlying system.

Journal reference: PLoS Genetics, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009429

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