Sex Hormones Absorbed by Bunny Food

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Rabbits are known for reproducing, But now their food might help with reproductive problems in other animals. That's good news for hermaphroditic frogs and alligators with marital difficulties.

Rabbit food reduced the presence of estrogen in contaminated water by more than 80 percent, said researchers from the University of Cincinnati in the November issue of Environmental Pollution.

Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. Humans use synthetic estrogen in birth control pills to control women's menstrual cycles and some of that estrogen makes its way into water supplies.

But estrogen in water supplies may disrupt the endocrine systems of fish, reptiles, birds and other wildlife living in and around waterways.

Increasingly frequent problems found in wildlife may be a result of estrogen contamination, including the presence of both male and female sex organs, feminization of males, malformed reproductive organs, skewed sex ratios, reduced fertility and more.

The University of Cincinnati researchers found that rabbit food absorbed more estrogen in a 72-hour period than clay, starch, casein (a protein found in cheese and milk), or tryptone (an amino acid). Since the rabbit food is essentially just shredded plants, the researchers speculate that other plant materials could have a similar effect.