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Rabbit
Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Superphylum: Chordata
Phylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
in part

Genera

Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha, found in several parts of the world. There are seven different genera in the family classified as rabbits, including the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Cottontail rabbit (genus Sylvilagus; 13 species), and the Amami rabbit (Pentalagus furnessi, endangered species on Amami Ōshima, Japan). There are many other species of rabbit, and these, along with pikas and hares, make up the order Lagomorpha.

Contents

Location and habitat

Entrance to a rabbit burrow
Entrance to a rabbit burrow with rabbit droppings near entrance

The rabbit lives in many areas around the world. Rabbits live in groups, and the best known species, the European rabbit lives in underground burrows, or rabbit holes. A group of burrows is called a warren. [1] Meadows, woods, forests, thickets, and grasslands are areas in which rabbits live.[1] They also inhabit deserts and wetlands. More than half the world's rabbit population resides in North America.[1] They also live in Europe, India, Sumatra, Japan, and parts of Africa. The European rabbit has been introduced to many places around the world.[2 ]

Characteristics and anatomy

The rabbit's long ears, which can be more than 10 cm (4 in) long, are probably an adaptation for detecting predators. They have large, powerful hind legs. Each foot has five toes, with one greatly reduced in size. They are digitigrade animals; they move around on the tips of their toes. Wild rabbits do not differ much in their body proportions or stance, with full, egg-shaped bodies. Their size can range anywhere from 20 cm (8 in) in length and 0.4 kg in weight to 50 cm (20 in) and more than 2 kg. The fur is most commonly long and soft, with colors such as shades of brown, gray, and buff. The tail is a little plume of brownish fur (white on top for cottontails).[2 ]

Cecal pellets

Rabbits are hindgut digesters. This means that most of their digestion takes place in their large intestine and cecum. In rabbits, the cecum is about 10 times bigger than the stomach, and it, along with the large intestine, makes up roughly 40% of the rabbit's digestive tract.[3] Cecotropes, sometimes called "night feces", come from the cecum and are high in minerals, vitamins and proteins that are necessary to the rabbit's health. Rabbits eat these to meet their nutritional requirements. This process allows rabbits to extract the necessary nutrients from their food.[4]

Rabbits have two sets of incisor teeth, one behind the other. This way they can be distinguished from rodents, with which they are often mistaken.[5]

Behavior

A rabbit's side view

Rabbits, being prey animals, tend to be exploratory in new spaces and when confronted with a threat, they tend to freeze and observe. Rabbit vision has a remarkably wide field of vision, and a good deal of it is devoted to overhead scanning. Even indoors, rabbits will scan for overhead threats.

Rabbits have a complex social structure, and like dogs, will attempt to establish a hierarchy and dominance.

Reproduction

Domestic pet kittens 1 hour after birth.

Female rabbits do not actually ovulate until after breeding. They have a bifurcated uterus and often, breeding can involve multiple acts that can result in multiple impregnations from different bucks (male rabbits). Males are commonly sterile during the heat of summer months.

A litter of rabbit kits (baby rabbits) can be as small as a single kit, ranging up to 12 or 13; however there have been litters as big as 18. The gestation period is 30–32 days.[6]

Nest with young.

Diet and eating habits

Rabbits are herbivores who feed by grazing on grass, forbs, and leafy weeds. In consequence, their diet contains large amounts of cellulose, which is hard to digest. Rabbits solve this problem by passing two distinct types of feces: hard droppings and soft black viscous pellets, the latter of which are immediately eaten. Rabbits reingest their own droppings (rather than chewing the cud as do cows and many other herbivores) to digest their food further and extract sufficient nutrients.[7]

Rabbits graze heavily and rapidly for roughly the first half hour of a grazing period (usually in the late afternoon), followed by about half an hour of more selective feeding. In this time, the rabbit will also excrete many hard fecal pellets, being waste pellets that will not be reingested. If the environment is relatively non-threatening, the rabbit will remain outdoors for many hours, grazing at intervals. While out of the burrow, the rabbit will occasionally reingest its soft, partially digested pellets; this is rarely observed, since the pellets are reingested as they are produced. Reingestion is most common within the burrow between 8 o'clock in the morning and 5 o'clock in the evening, being carried out intermittently within that period.

Hard pellets are made up of hay-like fragments of plant cuticle and stalk, being the final waste product after redigestion of soft pellets. These are only released outside the burrow and are not reingested. Soft pellets are usually produced several hours after grazing, after the hard pellets have all been excreted. They are made up of micro-organisms and undigested plant cell walls.

The chewed plant material collects in the large cecum, a secondary chamber between the large and small intestine containing large quantities of symbiotic bacteria that help with the digestion of cellulose and also produce certain B vitamins. The pellets are about 56% bacteria by dry weight, largely accounting for the pellets being 24.4% protein on average. These pellets remain intact for up to six hours in the stomach; the bacteria within continue to digest the plant carbohydrates. The soft feces form here and contain up to five times the vitamins of hard feces. After being excreted, they are eaten whole by the rabbit and redigested in a special part of the stomach. This double-digestion process enables rabbits to use nutrients that they may have missed during the first passage through the gut, and thus ensures that maximum nutrition is derived from the food they eat.[2 ] This process serves the same purpose within the rabbit as rumination does in cattle and sheep.[8]

Rabbits are incapable of vomiting due to the physiology of their digestive system.[9]

Diseases

Differences from hares

Rabbits are clearly distinguished from hares in that rabbits are altricial, having young that are born blind and hairless. In contrast, hares are generally born with hair and are able to see (precocial). All rabbits except the cottontail rabbit live underground in burrows or warrens, while hares live in simple nests above the ground (as does the cottontail rabbit), and usually do not live in groups. Hares are generally larger than rabbits, with longer ears, and have black markings on their fur. Hares have not been domesticated, while European rabbits are often kept as house pets. In gardens, they are typically kept in hutches — small, wooden, house-like boxes — that protect the rabbits from the environment and predators.

As pets

Oryctolagus cuniculus

Pet rabbits kept indoors are referred to as house rabbits. House rabbits typically have an indoor pen or cage and a rabbit-safe place to run and exercise, such as an exercise pen, living room or family room. Rabbits can be trained to use a litter box and some can learn to come when called. Domestic rabbits that do not live indoors can also often serve as companions for their owners, typically living in an easily accessible hutch outside the home. Some pet rabbits live in outside hutches during the day for the benefit of fresh air and natural daylight and are brought inside at night.

Whether indoor or outdoor, pet rabbits' pens are often equipped with enrichment activities such as shelves, tunnels, balls, and other toys. Pet rabbits are often provided additional space in which to get exercise, simulating the open space a rabbit would traverse in the wild. Exercise pens or lawn pens are often used to provide a safe place for rabbits to run.

A pet rabbit's diet typically consists of unlimited Timothy hay, a small amount of pellets, and a small portion of fresh vegetables. Rabbits are social animals. Rabbits as pets can find their companionship with a variety of creatures, including humans, other rabbits, guinea pigs, and sometimes even cats and dogs. Animal welfare organisations such as the House Rabbit Society recommend that rabits do not make good pets for small children because children generally do not know how to stay quiet, calm, and gentle around rabbits. As prey animals, rabbits are alert, timid creatures that startle easily. They have fragile bones, especially in their backs, that require support on the belly and bottom when picked up. Children 7 years old and older usually have the maturity required to care for a rabbit.[10]

As food and clothing

An Australian 'Rabbiter' circa 1900
A load of rabbit skins, Northern Tablelands, New South Wales
Rabbits may be slaughtered commercially for their meat.

Leporids such as European rabbits and hares are a food meat in Europe, South America, North America, some parts of the Middle East, and China, among other places.

Rabbit is still commonly sold in UK butchers and markets, although not frequently in supermarkets. At farmers markets and the famous Borough Market in London, rabbits will be displayed dead and hanging unbutchered in the traditional style next to braces of pheasant and other small game. Rabbit meat was once commonly sold in Sydney, Australia, the sellers of which giving the name to the rugby league team the South Sydney Rabbitohs, but quickly became unpopular after the disease myxomatosis was introduced in an attempt to wipe out the feral rabbit population (see also Rabbits in Australia).

When used for food, rabbits are both hunted and bred for meat. Snares or guns along with dogs are usually employed when catching wild rabbits for food. In many regions, rabbits are also bred for meat, a practice called cuniculture. Rabbits can then be killed by hitting the back of their heads, a practice from which the term rabbit punch is derived. Rabbit meat is a source of high quality protein.[11] It can be used in most ways chicken meat is used. In fact, well-known chef Mark Bittman says that domesticated rabbit tastes like chicken because both are blank palettes upon which any desired flavors can be layered.[12] Rabbit meat is leaner than beef, pork, and chicken meat. Rabbit products are generally labeled in three ways, the first being Fryer. This is a young rabbit between 4.5 and 5 pounds and up to 9 weeks in age.[13] This type of meat is tender and fine grained. The next product is a Roaster; they are usually over 5 pounds and up to 8 months in age. The flesh is firm and coarse grained and less tender than a fryer. Then there are giblets which include the liver and heart. One of the most common types of rabbit to be bred for meat is New Zealand white rabbit.

There are several health issues associated with the use of rabbits for meat, one of which is Tularemia or Rabbit Fever.[14] Another is so-called rabbit starvation, due most likely to essential fatty acid deficiencies in rabbit meat and synthesis limitations in human beings.

Rabbits are a favorite food item of large pythons, such as Burmese pythons and reticulated pythons, both in the wild, as well as pet pythons. A typical diet for example, for a pet Burmese python, is a rabbit once a week.

Rabbit pelts are sometimes used in for clothing and accessories, such as scarves or hats. Angora rabbits are bread for their long, fine hair, which can be sheared and harvested like sheep wool. Rabbits are very good producers of manure; additionally, their urine, being high in nitrogen, makes lemon trees very productive. Their milk may also be of great medicinal or nutritional benefit due to its high protein content.

Environmental problems

When introduced to a new area, rabbits can quickly overpopulate and become a nuisance, as they have on this university campus.

Rabbits have been a source of environmental problems when introduced into the wild by humans. As a result of their appetites, and the rate at which they breed, wild rabbit depredation can be problematic for agriculture. Gassing, barriers (fences), shooting, snaring, and ferreting have been used to control rabbit populations, but the most effective measures are diseases such as myxomatosis (myxo or mixi, colloquially) and calicivirus. In Europe, where rabbits are farmed on a large scale, they are protected against myxomatosis and calicivirus with a genetically modified virus. The virus was developed in Spain, and is beneficial to rabbit farmers. If it were to make its way into wild populations in areas such as Australia, it could create a population boom, as those diseases are the most serious threats to rabbit survival. Rabbits in Australia are considered to be such a pest that land owners are legally obliged to control them.

Naming

Rabbits are often known affectionately by the pet name bunny or bunny rabbit, especially when referring to young, domesticated rabbits. Originally, the word for an adult rabbit was coney or cony, while rabbit referred only to the young animals. The word rabbit, however, mostly replaced the older word during the 19th century after coney became a vulgarism by analogy to the word cunt (widely considered vulgar) due to their similar pronunciation. When coney was used to refer to rabbits, its pronunciation was changed to /ˈkoʊni/ (rhymes with "phoney"), from the original /ˈkʌni/ (rhymes with "honey") because of this.[15][16][17][18] More recently, the term kit has been used to refer to a young rabbit. A group of young rabbits is referred to as a kindle. Young hares are called leverets, and this term is sometimes informally applied to any young rabbit. Male rabbits are called bucks and females does. A group of rabbits or hares is often called a fluffle in parts of Northern Canada.

In culture and literature

Rabbit and Acorn Jay Birds, a Song Dynasty era painting by Chinese artist Cui Bai, painted in 1061 AD.

Rabbits are often used as a symbol of fertility or rebirth, and have long been associated with spring and Easter as the Easter Bunny. The species' role as a prey animal also lends itself as a symbol of innocence, another Easter connotation.

Additionally, rabbits are often used as symbols of playful sexuality, which also relates to the human perception of innocence, as well as its reputation as a prolific breeder.

Folklore and mythology

The rabbit often appears in folklore as the trickster archetype, as he uses his cunning to outwit his enemies.

On the Isle of Portland in Dorset, UK, the rabbit is said to be unlucky and speaking its name can cause upset with older residents. This is thought to date back to early times in the quarrying industry, where piles of extracted stone (not fit for sale) were built into tall rough walls (to save space) directly behind the working quarry face; the rabbit's natural tendency to burrow would weaken these "walls" and cause collapse, often resulting in injuries or even death. The name rabbit is often substituted with words such as “long ears” or “underground mutton”, so as not to have to say the actual word and bring bad luck to oneself. It is said that a public house (on the island) can be cleared of people by calling out the word rabbit and while this was very true in the past, it has gradually become more fable than fact over the past 50 years.

Other fictional rabbits

The rabbit as trickster appears in American popular culture; for example the Br'er Rabbit character from African-American folktales and Disney animation; and the Warner Bros. cartoon character Bugs Bunny.

Anthropomorphized rabbits have appeared in a host of works of film, literature, and technology, notably the White Rabbit and the March Hare in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; in the popular novels Watership Down, by Richard Adams (which has also been made into a movie) and Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson, as well as in Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit stories.

Urban legends

It was commonly believed that pregnancy tests were based on the idea that a rabbit would die if injected with a pregnant woman's urine. This is not true. However, in the 1920s it was discovered that if the urine contained the hCG, a hormone found in the bodies of pregnant women, the rabbit would display ovarian changes. The rabbit would then be killed to have its ovaries inspected, but the death of the rabbit was not the indicator of the results. Later revisions of the test allowed technicians to inspect the ovaries without killing the animal. A similar test involved injecting Xenopus frogs to make them lay eggs, but animal tests for pregnancy have been made obsolete by faster, cheaper, and simpler modern methods.

Classifications

Rabbits and hares were formerly classified in the order Rodentia (rodent) until 1912, when they were moved into a new order Lagomorpha. This order also includespikas.

Order Lagomorpha

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c "Rabbit Habitats". http://courses.ttu.edu/thomas/classpet/1998/rabbit1/new_page_2.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-07.  
  2. ^ a b c "rabbit". Encyclopædia Britannica (Standard Edition ed.). Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. 2007.  
  3. ^ "Feeding the Pet Rabbit"
  4. ^ Dr. Byron de la Navarre's "Care of Rabbits" Susan A. Brown, DVM's "Overview of Common Rabbit Diseases: Diseases Related to Diet"
  5. ^ Brown, Louise (2001). How to Care for Your Rabbit. Kingdom Books. p. 6. ISBN 9781852791674.  
  6. ^ Brown, Louise (2001). How to Care for Your Rabbit. Kingdom Books. pp. 28–29. ISBN 9781852791674.  
  7. ^ Information for Rabbit Owners
  8. ^ The Private Life of the Rabbit, R. M. Lockley, 1964. Chapter 10.
  9. ^ "True or False? Rabbits are physically incapable of vomiting. (Answer to Pop Quiz)". http://www.rabbit.org/fun/answer11.html.  
  10. ^ Children and Rabbits
  11. ^ "Rabbit: From Farm to Table". http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Factsheets/Rabbit_from_Farm_to_Table/index.asp.  
  12. ^ "How to Cook Everything :: Braised Rabbit with Olives". 2008. http://www.howtocookeverything.tv/htce/TakeOnTheRecipes/detail/recipeId-24.html. Retrieved 2008-07-17.  
  13. ^ [1]North Dakota Dept. of Ag.
  14. ^ Tularemia (Rabbit fever)
  15. ^ Shipley, Joseph Twadell, The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, JHU Press, 1984, p.129
  16. ^ Carney, Edward, A survey of English spelling, Routledge, 1994, p.469
  17. ^ Morton, Mark, Cupboard Love: A Dictionary of Culinary Curiosities, Insomniac Press, 2004, p.251
  18. ^ Allen & Burridge, Forbidden Words, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p.242

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

Additions, corrections and discussions on this subject by users of the Classic Encyclopedia can be found on the discussion page

RABBIT, the modern name of the well-known rodent, formerly called (as it still is in English legal phraseology) Cony,' a member of the family Leporidae (see Rodentia). Till recently the rabbit has generally been known scientifically as Lepus cuniculus, but it is now frequently regarded, at least by systematic naturalists, as the representative of a genus by itself, under the The Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). name of Oryctolagus cuniculus. Some zoologists, indeed, include in the same genus the South African thick-tailed hare, but by others this is separated as Pronolagus crassicaudatus. From the hare the wild rabbit is distinguished externally by its smaller size, shorter ears and feet, the absence or reduction of the black patch at the tip of the ears, and its greyer colour. The skull is I There are no native names either in Teutonic or Celtic languages; such words as German Kaninchen or English cony are from the Latin cuniculus, while the Irish, Welsh and Gaelic are adaptations from English. "Rabbit," which is now the common name in English, was for long confined to the young of the cony, and so the Prompt orium Parvulorum, c. 1440, "Rabet, yonge conye, cunicellus." The ultimate source of "rabbit" is itself unknown. The New English Dictionary takes it to be of northern French origin. There is a Walloon robett. Skeat suggests a possible connexion with Spanish rabo, tail, rabear, to wag the hind-quarters. The familiar name for toasted cheese, "Welsh rabbit," is merely a joke, and the alteration to "Welsh rare-bit" is due to a failure to see the joke, such as it is. Parallels may be found in "Prairie oyster," the yolk of an egg with vinegar, pepper, &c. added; or "Scotch woodcock," a savoury of buttered eggs on anchovy toast.

very similar to that of the hare, but is smaller and lighter, with a slenderer muzzle and a longer and narrower palate. Besides these characters, the rabbit is separated from the hare by the fact that it brings forth its young naked, blind, and helpless; to compensate for this, it digs a deep burrow in the earth in which they are born and reared, while the young of the hare are born fully clothed with fur, and able to take care of themselves, in the shallow depression or "form" in which they are produced. The weight of the rabbit is from 22 to 3 lb, although wild individuals have been recorded up to more than 5 lb. Its general habits are too well known to need detailed description. It breeds from four to eight times a year, bringing forth each time from three to eight young; its period of gestation is about thirty days, and it is able to bear when six months old. It attains to an age of about seven or eight years.

The rabbit is believed to be a native of the western half of the Mediterranean basin, and still abounds in Spain, Sardinia, southern Italy, Sicily, Greece, Tunis and Algeria;. and many of the islands adjoining these countries are overrun with these rodents. Thence it has spread, partly by man's agency, northwards throughout temperate western Europe, increasing rapidly wherever it gains a footing; and this extension is still going on, as is shown by the case of Scotland, where early in the 19th century rabbits were little known, while they are now found in all suitable localities up to the extreme north. It has also gained admittance into Ireland, and now abounds there as much as in England. Out of Europe the same extension of range has been going on. In New Zealand and Australia rabbits, introduced either for profit or sport, have increased to such an extent as to form one of the most serious pests that the farmers have to contend against, as the climate and soil suit them perfectly and their natural enemies are too few and too lowly organized to keep them within reasonable bounds. In North America about thirty species and twice as many geographic races (subspecies) are known, and the occurrence of several distinct fossil forms shows that the genus has long been established. The chief variety is the common grey or cottontail (Lepus floridanus). For, the "jack-rabbit," see Hare.

The rabbit has been domesticated from an early period. Little doubt exists amongst naturalists that all the varieties of the domestic animal are descended from Oryctolagus cuniculus. The variations which have been perpetuated and intensified by artificial selection are, with the exception of those of the dog, greater than have been induced in any other mammal. For not only has the weight been more than quadrupled in some of the larger breeds, and the structure of the skull and other parts of the skeleton greatly altered, but the proportionate size of the brain has been reduced and the colour and texture of the fur altered in a remarkable manner. The lopeared breed is the oldest English variety, and has been cultivated carefully since about 1785, the aim of the breeder being directed to the development of the size of the ears, and with such success that they sometimes measure more than 23 in. from tip to tip and exceed 6 in. in width. This development, which is accompanied by changes in the structure of the skull, depends on breeding the animals in warm damp hutches, without which the best developed parents fail to produce the desired offspring. In colour lop-eared rabbits vary greatly. The Belgian hare is a large breed of a hardy and prolific character, which closely resembles the hare in colour, and is not unlike it in form. Some years ago these rabbits were sold as "leporides" or hybrids, produced by the union of the hare and the rabbit; but the most careful experimenters have failed to obtain any such hybrid, and the naked immature condition in which young rabbits are born as compared with the clothed and highly developed young hare renders it unlikely that hybrids could be produced. Nor does the flesh of the Belgian rabbit resemble that of the hare in colour or flavour. A closely allied variety, though of larger size, is known as the Patagonian rabbit, although it has no relation to the country after which it is called.

The Angora rabbit is characterized by the extreme elongation and fineness of the fur, which in good specimens reaches 6 or 7 in. in length, requiring great care and frequent combing to prevent it from becoming matted. The Angoras most valued are albinos, with pure white fur and pink eyes; in some parts of the Continent they are kept by the peasants and clipped regularly.

Amongst the breeds which are valued for the distribution of colour on the fur are the Himalayan and the Dutch. The former is white, but the whole of the extremities - viz. the nose, the ears, tail and feet - are black or very dark in colour. This very pretty breed has no connexion with the mountains from which it takes its name, but is a variety produced by careful breeding and selection. Though produced by crossing, it now generally breeds true to colour, at times throwing back, however, to the silver greys from which it was derived. The rabbits known as Dutch are small, and valued for the disposition of the colour and markings. The entire body behind the shoulder-blades is uniformly coloured, with the exception of the feet; the anterior part of the body, including the fore legs, neck, and jaws, is white, the cheeks and ears being coloured. In some strains the coloured portion extends in front of the fore legs, leaving only a ring of white round the neck. The more accurately the coloured portion is defined, the higher is the animal esteemed. The silver grey is a uniform-coloured breed, the fur of which is a rich chinchilla grey, varying in depth in the different strains. From the greater value of the fur, silver greys have been frequently employed to stock warrens, as they breed true to colour in the open if the ordinary wild rabbits are excluded. Other colours known, as silver fawn and silver brown, are closely related. A blue breed has been recently introduced. The largest and heaviest of all is the Flemish giant, with iron-grey fur above and white below. Other breeds include the Japanese, with an orange coat, broadly banded on the hind-quarters with black; the pink-eyed and short and thick-furred albino Polish; the Siberian, probably produced by crossing the Himalayan with the Angora; and the black-and-tan and blue-and-tan.

See also HARE, SHOOTING, and COURSING. (W. H. F.; R. L.*)

Additions, corrections and discussions on this subject by users of the Classic Encyclopedia can be found on the discussion page

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Simple English

Rabbit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Leporidae
in part

Genera

Pentalagus
Bunolagus
Nesolagus
Romerolagus
Brachylagus
Sylvilagus
Oryctolagus
Poelagus

Rabbits are mammals of the order Lagomorpha. There are about fifty different species of rabbits and hares. The order Lagomorpha is made of rabbits, pikas and hares. Rabbits can be found in many parts of the world.[1] They live in families and eat vegetables and hay. In the wild, rabbits live in burrows, that they dig themselves. A group of rabbits living together in a burrow is called a warren.

A male rabbit is called a buck, and a female is called a doe. A baby rabbit is called a kit, which is short for kitten. Rabbits have a gestation period of around 31 days. The female can have up to 12-13, very rarely litters as big as 18 and as small as one.

Some people have rabbits as pets. The most popular pet rabbit is the Netherland Dwarf. Rabbits are also raised as meat animals. Rabbits are of a different biological classification than hares.

Since rabbits are prey animals, they tend to be exploratory in new spaces and when confronted with a threat, they freeze and observe. Rabbit vision has a very wide field, and a good deal of it is devoted to overhead scanning. Even indoors, rabbits will scan for overhead threats.

Rabbits have a complex social structure, and like dogs, will try to get a hierarchy and dominance.

References

bjn:Kalincipcd:Lapin







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