African savanna hares have very good sight, hearing, and sense of smell. They most often rely on sight to escape predators. In addition, they use their ears in signaling, with different positions for different moods. They have a sensory pad at the entrance of each nostril that is concealed by hairy folds of skin and aids in olfaction. They drum with their forelegs as a warning to other hares. Another non-vocal warning to others is teeth grinding. Even though both of these sounds are faint to humans, their keen hearing can detect this from a great distance. Females often make bleating calls to their young. When they are caught or wounded, they scream very loudly.
Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: vibrations
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; vibrations ; chemical
Lepus microtis is a widespread and successful species over much of Africa and is not endangered.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
In large numbers, African savanna hares can be pests and cause damage to crops.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
In many regions, African savanna hares were at one time an important source of food for humans and were shipped between nations. In addition, their thin skin and dense soft fur is widely used in clothing.
Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material
African savanna hares and cape hares (Lepus capensis) coexist with each other over much of their range. Lepus microtis is considered prey for carnivorous birds and snakes in the wild. In large numbers, L. microtis can be competitors for grazing land.
African savanna hares are herbivores, so their diet is mostly grasses and herbs; however, they usually consume more grasses than herbs. The main plant items in their diet are unidentified grasses, as well as grasses from genus Digitaria and genus Hyparrhenia. They are also known to gnaw on exposed roots, bark, shoots, the pulp of fallen fruit, berries, and occasionally pluck leaves or eat fungi. They circulate their food twice; this means they produce soft caecotroph pellets during the night that they consume again, to obtain the remaining nutrients. They then produce dry pellets during the day, which have very little nutrients remaining.
Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Other Foods: fungus; dung
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore , Granivore , Lignivore)
African savanna hares (Lepus microtis) are found within the southwestern Palearctic and Ethiopian biogeographic regions. Their range spans from the Atlantic coast of northwestern Africa (western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone), east across the Sahel to Sudan and western Ethiopia and south across east Africa through the Congo and west Kenya, to Botswana, Namibia, and northeast South Africa. There is also an isolated population in south Algeria, near Beni Abbes.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); ethiopian (Native )
This species is found in montane areas and inhabits mostly scrubby grasslands within woodlands. The preferred grasses and shrubs in which this species lives includes kangaroo grasses (Themeda triandra), cogon grasses (Imperata cylindrica), and camphor bushes (Tarconanthus camphoratus). In a study measuring the proportion of L. microtis found in various vegetation types, 83% were in scrub or woodland, and 15% were in open grassland. They also can be found in areas of secondary growth, cultivation mosaics, and stony, wooded steppes; areas that are common in upland and montane grasslands. This habitat is found in the savannas of northwest and sub-Saharan Africa.
Habitat Regions: terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland
Specific information on longevity is not available for Lepus microtis.
African savanna hares tend to have a medium body size. Members of this species have a short tail and are well furred, with thick coarse pelage. They tend to be more richly colored than other hares, with a greyish-brown back, a white dorsal side and a russet hue on their breasts, sides, legs, and at the nape of their neck. Their ears are black at the tips and their tail is black on top and white below. In montane areas, they tend to be more russet and darker in coloring. However, in areas where they coexist with cape hares, they are almost identical in color.
A feature specific to L. microtis is a deep groove on their incisors. There are slight geographical differences in teeth, due to phylogenetic processes. These processes include varying gene flow, population bottlenecks, founder effect and genetic drift. They are not a result of adapting to current environmental conditions because they are considered selectively neutral. In addition, their muzzle projects more than that of cape hares.
Skull features unique to hares include a short palate, a broad and triangular postorbital process, and fused sutures of the interparietal bone. This species specifically has wide anterior and middle parts of the basioccipitals. They also show sex-specific variation, the basioccipitals of males are narrower and similar in shape to the basioccipitals of cape hares.
Range mass: 1.5 to 3 kg.
Average mass: 2 kg.
Range length: 41 to 58 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
African savanna hares have many anti-predation traits. If in danger, they will run a short distance, very quickly and make a quick sharp turn, to throw off their scent trail. They try to avoid predation with their very keen senses of sight, smell, and hearing. They make drumming noises with their hind feet as an alarm signal, to alert others of danger. In addition, they rely heavily on camouflage to stay safe and are most active at night, to avoid being seen by predators. African savanna hares are in danger of predation from the second they are born. Their most common predators are humans, carnivorous birds, and snakes.
Anti-predator Adaptations: aposematic ; cryptic
The mating system of this species and its close relatives has not been reported in scientific literature.
Female Lepus microtis are pregnant throughout the year, showing a continuous breeding system. Females can reabsorb embryos if there is a problem with the pregnancy, this occurs most frequently during autumn, at a rate of 25%. Females become pregnant multiple times throughout the year, giving birth to several litters. Their gestation period ranges from 25 to 50 days. The mean number of young in a litter is 1.6, but annual production is about eight young per female. A female can give birth to as many as four litters in a year. During breeding, multiple males will pursue one female; males often chase one another and fight.
Breeding interval: Breeding occurs continuously throughout the year, with pregnancy least successful in autumn.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs continuously throughout the year.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 15.
Average number of offspring: 8.
Range gestation period: 25 to 50 days.
Average weaning age: 1 months.
Average time to independence: 1 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 8 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Young African savanna hares are born in the open, not in a nest. They can open their eyes and run within a few minutes. The mother usually separates the young and returns to each separately, allowing them to suckle. When the young are approached, they often try to box, bite, growl, leap, or grind their teeth. By the age of one month, they are fully weaned and independent. By eight months, they are sexually mature.
Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female)