Monday, June 9, 2008

L. lanzarotensis

The most spectacular subspecies of the Lepus is the celebrated SEASIDE HARE (L. lanzarotensis) of the Canary Archipelago.

By far the most seaworthy of the extended family, the diminutive female of this breed might not wait for a low tide to plunder the reef for shells. She hunts expressly for marine casings large enough to accommodate her body the way a snail wears its home-made housing — this almost always means specimens of RIBBED TRITON or JUMBO TURRITELLA (ibid.), which interlock well with her curiously developed spine. She dons her shell when she becomes gravid, and thenceforth is never seen without it. That she bolts about in this state with the same rigid posture she exhibited unshelled makes her seem to us proud or ostentatious, like a lady of fashion sporting a peaked headdress.

However, it is not vanity but Nature’s wisdom that guides the mother-to-be. For when parturition is imminent, off comes the shell — but not before the hare has located a suitable place for her family. There, she rolls onto her back and turns (always clockwise) into the soil, until only the mouth of the shell is above ground. She then upends herself, leaving the husk embedded in the earth: into this fortified depression she will deposit her young. The consequent safety afforded to a drove of Seaside leverets leads at times to an overabundance of the animal — a problem counteracted during tourist season by the increase in seashell demand.

From: P. Hambunck Constanelle, Constanelle’s Global Fauna, 3rd Ed. Mandaroeb & Sons, 1872: p. 406.