I’m studying for tomorrow’s plant bio midterm. I recently wrote a paper for the class on the topic of dust bunnies. Yes, the prompt actually told us to treat dust bunnies as real animals and describe them biologically. The result is a pretty lame, albeit interesting, essay about Cuniculus pulvus. I’ve gotten requests to share this essay, so here it is. Enjoy!
The dust bunny (Cuniculus pulvus) is perhaps one of the most well-known but least-studied organisms in nature. Dust bunnies have defined habitats, habits, and physiologies, which I will be covering in more detail. They are also very prolific reproducers, both asexual and sexual, with a simple evolutionary lineage. These temperamental creatures are very low-maintenance and make ideal house pets; however, in the wild they are much more dangerous, with the propensity to damage electronics and cause allergic reactions (Smith).
Dust bunnies are found in every country, most commonly in dark, undisturbed locations indoors. They tend to aggregate in colonies beneath couches, beds, and other furniture. Huge populations of dust bunnies have been found inhabiting seldom-visited attics and basements. The reason dust bunnies prefer these locations is twofold – they minimize encounters with their predator, the Vacuum, and they maximize chances of reproductive success. When dust bunnies are out in the open, they are more likely to be eaten by predators. Conversely, when dust bunnies are in a secluded area, they are more likely to meet potential mates, as well as reproduce asexually. I will explore reproduction in an upcoming paragraph.
Dust bunnies have many habits, some normal and some peculiar. For instance, they are very social animals and live in herds, similar to rabbits in the family Leporidae (Thomas). Because they are such social animals, dust bunnies eat, sleep, and play in groups. They have a rigid social hierarchy, with dominant males leading the group and females taking care of young. These creatures have an average lifespan of several months, and die en masse during periodic predator raids; a single Vacuum can destroy an entire colony of dust bunnies in less than a minute. However, there have been observed instances of dust bunnies living for thousands of years. This is possible in the most perfect of conditions: darkness and absolutely no outside forces. Dust bunnies enjoy sleep, often logging more than fifteen hours of sleep per day. Scientists postulate that this is one of the reasons for their longevity. More sleep means that they spend less energy and can concentrate on building body mass with food.
A peculiar habit of dust bunnies is that they enjoy staying in one place for long periods of time. They do not migrate as the seasons change, and they seldom need to move, because they rely on food around them. Occasionally, dust bunnies float into the air when they are disturbed by outside forces, natural and unnatural. For example, a breeze coming through an open window or a book falling near a group of dust bunnies will scatter them into the air. This gives them the chance to move to a new area, where they may reproduce and increase the possibility of passing down their genes through various offspring. But more often than not, floating dust bunnies land in less-than-ideal spots and meet their end by Vacuums.
Dust bunnies have a very simple physiology. They are composed of hair, dust, lint, and scraps of fibers (Smith). They are usually round in shape with no major organs. They do not need eyes, ears, mouths, noses, etc. because they are passive feeders who do not need to hunt for food. Apart from their ability to float in the air, dust bunnies have no active modes of transportation. These creatures have a varied diet, composed of dust, lint, and the occasional dead insect. Interestingly, since they do not have mouths, dust bunnies feed very similarly to paramecia; whenever they come in contact with food, they form food vacuoles around it (Haselton). Instead of digesting food, dust bunnies convert food into body mass. As a result, the older the dust bunny, the larger it will be. The average size of dust bunnies ranges from 1 inch to 5 inches. Males are usually slightly larger than the females, by 1-2 inches on average. Dust bunnies reach maturity at a certain size, usually 3 inches. No difference in coloration between the sexes exists, as opposed to birds.
The most common reproduction method for dust bunnies is asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction is reproduction involving one parent, resulting in genetically-identical offspring (Bailey). Both genders of dust bunnies are able to asexually reproduce through the process of fragmentation. In fragmentation, the parent breaks into different fragments, which form new individuals (Bailey). In the case of dust bunnies, the parents break off into clumps of dust that are genetically identical to themselves. These offspring then feed, grow larger, and once they reach maturity, are able to asexually or sexually reproduce, just like their parents.
Dust bunnies are also able to sexually reproduce in less-than-optimal conditions. This occurs when the population and food supply are low. Sexual reproduction requires two parents who donate genes to the young, resulting in mixed-gene offspring (Bailey). When dust bunnies are not in a state to reproduce asexually, they will look for mates in their vicinity and sexually reproduce. The entire process involves a process similar to conjugation, common in bacteria populations (Bailey).
What are the reasons that dust bunnies more commonly reproduce asexually? Asexual reproduction requires less energy and results in more offspring compared to sexual reproduction (Bailey). In asexual reproduction, dust bunnies do not need to waste energy or time searching for mates. They do not need to float to new areas and risk demise. They can just stay at their current habitat and pass on genes to offspring. Sexual reproduction for dust bunnies, on the other hand, is the last resort because it has broader conditions of reproduction. For instance, if a male dust bunny lands in the open where a female dust bunny is present, and there is little food and risk of predators, then the male will resort to sexual reproduction to pass down his genes. Perhaps the greatest advantage of sexual reproduction is genetic variability – variable offspring have a higher chance of receiving the attributes to survive a sudden change in environment (Otto).
With the pace of technological evolution, the dust bunny is looking at more efficient predators every year; Vacuums have developed better breeds, with more efficient suction and automated systems. Unless dust bunnies can find a way to adapt, they will soon be extinct, a sad thought indeed.
In conclusion, dust bunnies are well-known in the animal kingdom. We encounter them on a daily basis, but for the most part, we ignore them. Surprisingly, few have made the effort to study these beautiful creatures in detail. Those who have had a chance to delve into dust bunnies come out enlightened. Armed with facts about habitat, habits, physiologies, as well as different reproductive strategies and evolutionary lineage, people who study dust bunnies are prepared to take the steps necessary to educate the public and save these fascinating creatures.
More lame essays at randomtidbitsofthought.wordpress.com.