Below is an image of the rare and elusive San Simon Climbing Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus scandens). These animals can be found perched in woody shrubs throughout the valley but are rarely seen because of the obscuring foliage. Closely related to the desert cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus audubonii) they differ primarily in behavior. While the desert cottontail is ground dwelling, its aboreal cousin can be found climbing or perched in woody shrubs on the landscape. This behavioral difference and accompanying dietary shift to the leaves of shrubs and trees led to its reproductive isolation, ground dwelling versus tree dwelling, and the eventual speciation event which gave rise to the new species.
In reality this image is a result of the weak winter rains and the slow spring which reduced the amount of cool season grasses and plants which in turn forced the wildlife to rely on less than palatable plants for sustenance. But I like my story better. Like the Chiricahua Mountains flying trees this is just another story, a way to explain the world in an entertaining manner.
|Click to enlarge and use the arrows to locate the cottontail rabbit climbing up the Ephedra woody shrub for a meal.|
Here is the same photograph with the rabbit climbing but outlined and some anatomical features labeled.
|Rabbit climbing into the shrub, outlined and labeled for reference.|
|Another day and out on a limb.|