Stix's picture


I recall in the late seventies seeing many rabbits with myxomatosis, and in twenty years since nothing, until recently in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. Is it just time for it to come back around, and is it contageous to other animals in the vicinity or preditors that may feed on them?



Gill Sinclair's picture


My understanding is that myxomatosis is specific to rabbits, indeed the disease affects the European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus in particular - other genuses like Sylvilagus are not affected in the same way.
Other wild animals can be indirectly impacted through loss of food supply (eg. the Iberian lynx), but not through contracting the disease.
Myxomatosis does come in waves because of the resistance built up by some individuals who survive each outbreak, although I have to say that in my part of the world (East Yorkshire) the cycle seems to be much shorter than 20 years - I'd guess at every 3 or 4 years but I may be wrong.

Gill Sinclair
OU Certificate in Contemporary Science
Twitter @Gill_Sinclair

anonymous spotter's picture

Gill is right -

that the "periodicity" of the disease is much shorter than 20 years.
What probably happens is analogous to influenza in humans: every so often a particularly virulent form evolves, and the mortality rate goes up for a while. Then, as the survivors breed, numbers pick up again.
Unlike flu, though, it's also right to say that it doesn't seem to affect other species.