Alfort’s Jumpers: Bunnies Who Motor Using Handstands

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By the time sauteur d’Alfort rabbits are a few months old, they learn how to walk on their front paws to accommodate their uncoordinated back legs. (Carneiro M et al., 2021, PLOS Genetics)

Thanks to a Genetic Mutation, These French Rabbits Prefer Handstands to Bunny Hops

by Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

Sauteur d’Alfort is French for Alfort’s jumpers, but rabbits bearing the name don’t hop at all. When most rabbits would jump away—pushing off the ground with both back legs to propel themselves forward—sauteur d’Alfort bunnies instead throw their backends up over their heads, balance on their front paws and scurry forward.

The French veterinarian who first witnessed this behavior in 1935 said the rabbits looked like human acrobats walking on their hands, reports Cristophe-Cécil Garnier for Slate.

Now, researchers have identified the specific genetic mutation that leads to the bunnies’ particular locomotion. The mutation causes a malfunction in the nerve cells that coordinate messages from around the body to other muscle groups, which is key to a balanced gait. The results were published in a paper on March 25 in the journal PLOS Genetics.

The study’s implications go beyond rabbits. Lead author and Uppsala University geneticist Leif Andersson tells Science News’ Erin Garcia de Jesús that it is “contributing to our basic knowledge about a very important function in humans and all animals — how we are able to move.”

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – one daughter-in-law; Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

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