Mammalian Biology

, Volume 72, Issue 5, pp 313–319 | Cite as

Postnatal remains of the foetal membranes affect growth and survival of wild European rabbit pups

  • H. G. RödelEmail author
  • Gudrun Wibbelt
  • Anett Starkloff
  • D. von Holst
Original investigation


During a long-term study on reproduction of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.) that was carried out on a population living under semi-natural conditions, occasionally single pups per litter were discovered being stuck in remnants of the foetal membranes. Here we describe this so far unknown phenomenon, quantify the occurrence, and investigate the consequences for the individual growth rate and for survival. Furthermore, we tested if maternal social rank and age were correlated with the occurrence of this phenomenon. Pups comprising the described adherence of the foetal membranes had lower growth rates than their unaffected litter siblings, and usually died during the nestling period or short after emergence above ground. Our findings point out that there was an individual predisposition of the mother for having affected litters. However, an impact of maternal social rank or age on the occurrence of this feature in their offspring was not supported by our data. Nevertheless, a pathological background also has to be considered as a possible cause.

Key words

Oryctolagus cuniculus early ontogeny nest mortality parturition 

Postnatal vorhandene Reste der Fötalmembran beeinflussen Wachstum und Überleben junger Europäischer Wildkaninchen


Im Rahmen einer Langzeituntersuchung zur Reproduktion des Europäischen Wildkaninchens (Oryctolagus cuniculus L.), die an einer unter seminatürlichen Bedingungen lebenden Population durchgeführt wurde, fanden wir vereinzelt neugeborene Jungtiere, denen Reste der Fötalmembran anhafteten. In vorliegender Studie wird dieses Phanomen naher beschreiben, dessen Auftreten quantifiziert und Auswirkungen auf individuelle Zuwachsraten und Überleben untersucht. Weiterhin wurde geprüft, ob sozialer Rang und Alter der Mutter mit dem Auftreten dieses Phänomens in Verbindung stehen. Jungkaninchen, welche die beschriebenen Anhaftungen der Fötalmembran aufwiesen, zeigten niedrigere Wachstumsraten als deren nicht betroffene Wurfgeschwister. Betroffene Jungtiere starben fast immer wahrend der Nestphase oder kurz nach Nestverlassen. Unsere Befunde weisen auf eine individuelle Prädisposition von Müttern bezüglich der Geburt von Würfen mit dem beschriebenen Phanomen betroffenen Jungtieren hin. Jedoch ließ sich kein Einfluss des maternalen sozialen Ranges oder des Alters der Mutter auf das Auftreten des Phänomens bei Jungtieren nachweisen. Zukunftig sollte auch ein pathologischer Hintergrund als Ursache in Erwagung gezogen werden.


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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. G. Rödel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gudrun Wibbelt
    • 2
  • Anett Starkloff
    • 1
  • D. von Holst
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Animal PhysiologyUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife ResearchBerlinGermany

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