Chinese New Year – the Year of the Rabbit
Today, marks the start of the Chinese New Year, otherwise known as the Lunar New Year. It will be commemorated with a fortnight of celebrations and activities. There are events going on throughout the world to mark the start of the year of the rabbit.
Rabbits are members of the Order Lagomorpha and not rodents as is commonly supposed. Although they may share a common ancestor with those mammals that are members of the Order Rodentia such as rats along with mice, beavers, voles and squirrels. The rodents represent the largest group of extant mammals with something like 1,800 species worldwide with more yet to be scientifically named and formally studied. The Lagomorphs which include Pikas and Hares are much less numerous with just eight different genera recognised.
We are not sure when Lagomorphs appear in the fossil record, but we would assume the first evidence would be found in Lower Tertiary rocks, most probably Palaeogene, certainly by the Miocene these creatures were common and widespread. The Pikas, which resemble small, short-eared rabbits were particularly abundant in the Miocene but since about five million years ago their numbers have declined rapidly, being replaced by true rabbits. Pikas are mainly restricted to mountain habitats in the northern hemisphere today.
According to Chinese astrology, people born in the year of the rabbit are conscientious, industrious and financially lucky. Perhaps we ought to be conscientious and make an effort to study the origins of the Lagomorphs this year.