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Rising Sea Wiping Out Florida Keys Rabbits: Study October 5, 2012
Satellite Image
Almost imperceptible sea level rises have submerged about 48 percent of habitat for a Florida Keys rabbit.
The disappearance of nearly half of a South Florida rabbit species' habitat due to rising sea levels illustrates the mounting dangers of climate change, according to researchers.

The Lower Keys marsh rabbit was once abundant along the chain of islands between Miami and Key West.

But aerial photos from 1958 to 2006 show that 48 percent of its habitat has been lost due to sea level rise.

Only a few hundred of the species survive on a few of the keys, including Boca Chica, Sugarloaf and Big Pine, according to wildlife experts at the University of Florida.

“We kind of look at sea level rise as this problem that’s just starting. ... But what we’re showing here is that it’s already a problem,” says Robert McCleery, assistant professor of wildlife ecology and conservation.

The small Lower Keys marsh rabbit, or Sylvilagus palustris hefneri, was named for Playboy publishing magnate Hugh Hefner.

It has dark brown fur and a grayish-white belly.

Photo: Mike Ostrowski - Flickr