Handstand Rabbits Help Find a Gene for Jumping: Research Highlights


A rare breed of acrobatic rabbit allows a great leap in scientists’ knowledge of mammalian movement.

An unusual rabbit that walks on its front legs has revealed the genetic secrets behind other rabbits’ jumping ability.

The Sauteur d’Alfort It is a rare breed of rabbit that walks on its front legs, with its hind legs in the air. To find out why these bunnies can’t jump, Miguel Carneiro from the University of Porto in Portugal, Leif Andersson from the University of Uppsala in Sweden and their colleagues created a Sauteur d’Alfort with a standard rabbit that can jump, and sequenced the genomes of the couple’s 52 grandchildren.

Baby rabbits that couldn’t jump, the researchers found, had a single mutation in both copies of a gene called RORBO. These animals also had fewer neurons expressing the RORB protein in their spinal cord, which likely interfered with the movement of their hind limbs.

Previous studies had shown that mice with RORBO the mutations swing like ducks, suggesting to researchers that RORB is essential for normal spinal cord development and movement in four-legged animals.

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