Rabbit Development

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Revision as of 17:30, 4 July 2012 by Z8600021 (talk | contribs) (Morula to Blastocyst Growth)


As an embryological tool, the rabbit (Taxon- Oryctolagus cuniculus) along with human was a species which show birth defects with thalidomide (teratogenic effects not detected with prior testing on other species). These animals are herbivores with a very high breeding rate and number of offspring produced.

Links: 2009 ANAT2341 Group Project - Rabbit | Original Rabbit page

Some Recent Findings

  • Ultrasonographic characterisation of prenatal development in European brown hares (Lepus europaeus PALLAS, 1778) [1] "In contrast with the European rabbit, a distant relative, European hares give birth to precocial young. A comparison of the prenatal growth rate of both species suggests that the precocial state of the hare neonate is a more recently derived evolutionary characteristic, whereas the altricial condition of rabbits represents the ancestral mode."
  • Promoter analysis of the rabbit POU5F1 gene and its expression in preimplantation stage embryos [2] "The POU5F1 gene encodes the octamer-binding transcription factor-4 (Oct4). It is crucial in the regulation of pluripotency during embryonic development and widely used as molecular marker of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). ...Notably, we are the first to report that the rabbit POU5F1 is not restricted to ICM cells only, but it is expressed in trophoblast cells as well."


Oryctolagus cuniculus

Taxonomy Id: 9986 Rank: species

Genetic code: Translation table 1 (Standard) Mitochondrial genetic code: Translation table 2 Other names: New Zealand rabbit[includes], rabbits[common name], European rabbit[common name], Japanese white rabbit[common name], domestic rabbit[common name], rabbit[common name], Lepus cuniculus[misnomer]

Lineage( abbreviated ): Eukaryota; Metazoa; Chordata; Craniata; Vertebrata; Mammalia; Eutheria; Lagomorpha; Leporidae; Oryctolagus

Rabbit Reproductive Cycle

rabbit ovulation

Rabbits are seasonal breeders with the peak of reproductive activity occurring in the spring and early summer. The female is always in estrus and mating induces ovulation (reflex ovulators). Following mating the ovarian follicles remain active for 12 to 16 days if the doe is not fertilized.

Morula to Blastocyst Growth

Early growth of the rabbit morula and blastocyst.[3]

Early development data from an in vitro development study.[4]

Fertilization - penetration of most ova during the first hour after ovulation.

  1. 0-16 h - pronuclei
  2. 16-22 h - 2 cell
  3. 22-29 h - 4 cell
  4. 29-32 h - 8 cell
  5. 32-77h - morula
  6. 77-98h - blastocyst
  7. 98h + - hatching blastocyst

Rabbit Placentation

Rabbit implantation and placentation is a centric (or fusion) type, where the blastocyst adheres only to the epithelial cells (apical region) by trophectoderm forming projections.[5]

Neural Development

The data below is summarised from an excellent study of early neural development in the rabbit.[6] The same authors have studied neural development in the pig.

  • 6 - 8 somite stage - the flat neural plate transforms into a V-shaped neural groove (beginning at rhombo-cervical level)
  • 8 and 9 somite stage - multiple closure sites occur simultaneously at three levels
  1. incipient pros-mesencephalic transition
  2. incipient mes-rhombencephalic transition
  3. level of the first pairs of somites

results in four transient neuropores

anterior neuropore

  • 9-11 somite stages - anterior and rhombencephalic neuropores close
  • mesencephalic neuropore is very briefly present

posterior neuropore

  • largest and remains open longest
  • 9-10 somite stages - tapered (cranial) portion closes fast within
  • wide (caudal) portion closes up to a narrow slit
  • further closure slows
  • 22 somite stage - full closure occurs

compared with chick and mouse - sequence of multiple site closure resembles that of the mouse embryo, but other important aspects of neurulation resemble those of the chick embryo. In contrast to mouse and chick, no time lag between closure at the three closure sites in the rabbit was seen


Ultrasound day16 rabbit.jpg

16 Days Rabbit Embryo Flash | Quicktime

Rabbit Immune Development

Rabbits generate their antibody repertoire in three stages.[7]

  1. Neonatal repertoire is generated by B lymphopoiesis in fetal liver and bone marrow (limited by preferential V(H) gene segment usage).
  2. Between 4 and 8 weeks after birth gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) a complex primary antibody repertoire.
  3. The primary antibody repertoire is subsequently modified during antigen-dependent immune responses (the secondary repertoire).

Rabbits uniquely develop a primary antibody repertoire through somatic diversification of Ig genes (dependent on intestinal microbial flora).

Postnatal Rabbit Growth

Postnatal growth data from 2 to 34 weeks of age at biweekly intervals for New Zealand white rabbit.[8]

  • 17 male and 12 female rabbits, with the data tabulated separately.
  • Skeletal growth was complete at 28 weeks, with the 34 week values mature adult lengths.

Mean body weight

  • 2 weeks of age was 6% that at 34 weeks
  • 16 weeks was 72% of the weight at 34 weeks
  • weight continued to increase in the adult.

Mean body length

  • 2 weeks was 40% that at 34 weeks
  • 16 weeks was 91% of mature adult

Mean femoral length

  • 2 weeks was 38% of adult
  • 16 weeks was 95% of adult

Mean tibial length

  • 2 weeks was 38% of adult
  • 16 weeks was 94% of adult


  1. <pubmed>20047730</pubmed>
  2. <pubmed>19732419</pubmed>
  3. <pubmed>12683919</pubmed>
  4. <pubmed>19245751</pubmed>
  5. <pubmed>15579585</pubmed>
  6. <pubmed>9543335</pubmed>
  7. <pubmed>10933605</pubmed>
  8. <pubmed>3712130</pubmed>



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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2019, December 7) Embryology Rabbit Development. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Rabbit_Development

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© Dr Mark Hill 2019, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G