How do rabbits breathe underground? Rabbits have a very interesting adaptation to being underground. While they are underground, their oxygen intake comes from the soil. The gases in the soil diffuse into the rabbit’s nasal cavity and then dissolve into the blood capillaries of the mucous membranes.
This respiratory system is called a “nasal media” and gives rabbits an advantage over other small mammals because it allows them some measure of control of how much oxygen they receive (4). A study on some wild European rabbits showed that about half of their intake came through this process while they were asleep.
Different studies show different results as to what percentage of these animals’ oxygen needs are fulfilled by this type of respiration; however, it varies between 20%-70%. In addition, it is shown that rabbits only draw their oxygen from the soil if they are very close to the ground. If a rabbit was five centimeters underground, it would probably be able to use these nasal media. However, a shallow layer of topsoil would reduce this effect tremendously
When rabbits sleep or become inactive for a while, they will slow down their breathing rate to conserve energy and allow more time to take in oxygen via this method. In times of high activity, such as when fleeing predatory animals or digging out of danger, the rabbit will breathe much faster in order to maintain an adequate supply of oxygen to its muscles. This respiratory system also keeps rabbits immune from some harmful gases in the soil.
One study shows that the more toxic gas carbon dioxide is 20 times more prevalent in soil than in air. However, rabbits can tolerate a higher concentration of these gases while they are underground because of this nasal media
Periodically, a rabbit will breathe more rapidly and draw some oxygen from the air while it’s above ground. This helps keep its blood oxygenated when it is not underground while also ensuring that there is enough positive pressure to facilitate airflow into its nasal cavity.
In addition, rabbits have been observed to stay above ground for longer periods of time on windy days. They do this because being below ground will reduce their exposure to drafts caused by wind turbulence through the burrow system
When rabbits sleep, they have very little need for active oxygen. Therefore, their breathing will cease while they are underground in order to conserve energy. If the rabbit is asleep above ground, it will breathe normally due to its higher need for oxygen when sleeping or being inactive.
You can learn about this animal by reading books, watching videos on the internet, visiting the zoo, and observing rabbits.
Also Read: why do rabbits run around your feet?