Black rabbits on Lundy: Tudor treasures or post-war phonies?

Timmermans, Martijn J. T. N., Elmi, Hana and Kett, Stephen (2018) Black rabbits on Lundy: Tudor treasures or post-war phonies? Journal of the Lundy Field Society, 6 . pp. 105-113. ISSN 1758-3276

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Lundy is renowned for its feral black rabbits which, according to popular tradition, have inhabited the island since medieval times. Black rabbit fur was valued for much of the Middle Ages, explaining why warreners of Lundy might have favoured them, but genes responsible for feral rabbit melanism remain unexplored. Further potential complicating factors occur in the form of recent (twentieth century) small-scale domestic rabbit introductions to the Lundy feral population. To gain insight into genetic mechanisms underlying melanism on Lundy, rabbit samples were collected and subjected to molecular analysis. The Lundy rabbit population is shown to harbour non-functional copies of the agouti signalling protein (Asip) gene, a main determinant of coat colour in mammals. The observed genetic mutation is not unique to Lundy, having been reported to underlie dark coat colour phenotypes in various domestic rabbit breeds. The mutation is recessive and only phenotypically expressed in homozygous individuals. Although presence of this particular allele does not preclude recent genetic augmentation or replacement, simple population genetics show that allele persistence from a medieval introduction is not impossible.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Science and Technology > Natural Sciences
Item ID: 23447
Notes on copyright: The full text of the published version is made available in this repository ( with publisher (Lundy Field Society) permission
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Depositing User: Martijn Timmermans
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2018 16:34
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2019 01:53

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