Stories tagged jackalope


Jackalope 1
Jackalope 1Courtesy Joe
I moved recently. And I love my new neighborhood. Great neighbors, lots of kids for my kids to play with and my backyard is frequented by a real live jackalope.

I am obsessed with jackalopes. I don't know why. In the old Science Museum of Minnesota there was, at the end of the skyway, a rack of display cases and one held a jackalope. I would just sit and stare at that thing - for whatever reason it fascinated me.

Jackalope 2
Jackalope 2Courtesy Joe
And then a group of my coworkers gave me a mounted jackalope head that hangs in my cube.

And now one hangs out in my back yard. And it is awesome. Though a little camera shy.

Jackalope 3
Jackalope 3Courtesy Joe
Jackalopes don't have antlers like a deer or moose - in fact they are not meant to have the "antlers" at all. The growths are the restult of the Shope papilloma virus which causes tumors to grow on the rabbit’s head. Interestingly, Shope papilloma virus provided the first model of a cancer caused by a virus in a mammal and has been used to help develop the HPV vaccine and investigate antiviral therapies.

Here’s a link to a couple of photos of rabbits that have more severe cases of the infection.


In St. Paul!: A rabbit exhibiting growths resulting from the Shope papillomavirus.
In St. Paul!: A rabbit exhibiting growths resulting from the Shope papillomavirus.Courtesy Liza
When I was a visitor to the “old” Science Museum of Minnesota my favorite exhibit, for whatever reason, was the case that had jackalopes in it. I would insist that we wait until the line to enter the Omnitheater got long enough so we would wait to enter the Omni right by the jackalope case so I could it and stare at it. Sort of weird now that I look back on it…but even today they for some reason fascinate me and I have a jackalope hanging in my cube.

Anyway, the cool thing is that while jackalopes are not real, there is an actual virus that infects rabbits that causes growths on or near the rabbit’s head, which may be the origin of the myth of the jackalope. And the super awesome thing, I think, is that a coworker, and fellow Buzzketeer Liza, has a rabbit with this condition living in her neighborhood and she got this amazing picture of it!

The jackalope in my cube.
The jackalope in my cube.Courtesy Joe
The virus that causes the growths, Shope papillomavirus, was discovered by Dr. Richard Shope in the 1930s. When the virus was sequenced in 1984 it showed substantial similarities to the human papillomavirus (HPV) and as a result has been used as a model to develop the HPV vaccine.

Yea jackalopes!


A different tree man entirely: But he may also have HPV.
A different tree man entirely: But he may also have HPV.Courtesy Esther17
First of all, the photo posted here has nothing to do with the story. It’s just something to look at. What you should do is go to the original article, and look long and hard at the pictures there. Then you’ll have a nice visual reference, as well as something to keep you awake for the rest of your life.

But here’s the story: ever since a teenage accident in which he received a cut on the knee, an Indonesian man has been growing bizarre root-like projections from his hands and feet. Seriously, check out that link. For years, doctors could make neither heads nor tales of the 35-year-old man’s condition.

One would like to imagine that root hands and feet would be accompanied with super powers (super strength, nourishment from the ground, the ability to tear down the walls of Isengard, etc.), but this man had no such luck. Instead, his wife left him, and he’s no longer able to use his hands for much of anything (not exactly super powers).

Recently, however, a dermatological specialist from the University of Maryland traveled to the man’s village to examine his case. After testing his blood and samples of the growths, the doctor has concluded that the “roots” are in fact lesions caused by HPV, the Human papillomavirus. They’re warts, more or less.

HPV gets some attention here on Science Buzz, but usually in reference to its association with cervical cancer. Fortunately, this is a little different, and a lot more rare. The HPV is a normal strain, but this particular guy has a genetic fault that impedes his immune system (so much so that the doctor initially thought that he might have the AIDS), and prevents his body from containing the warts. So they just kept on growing, to the point where they could be considered “cutaneous horns.”

Cutaneous horns don’t generally develop past normal warts on humans, obviously. However, Cottontail rabbit papillomavirus (yes, a real thing, which I will mentally file next to Wobbly hedgehog syndrome) can cause that sort of thing on rabbits. Advanced CRPV (also known as shope papillomavirus) can even look like little bunny horns, or antlers, which probably gave rise to the legend (if you want to call it that) of the Jackalope. The SMM had a stuffed rabbit with shope papillomavirus on display recently, but if you missed it you can check out some pictures here.

In the case of the “Tree Man,” the doctor thinks that daily doses of synthesized vitamin A (often used for severe cases of HPV) should clear up the bulk of the growths, and the more resilient warts could be removed by freezing or surgery. It’s unlikely that the man will ever have a completely “normal” body, but hopefully this treatment should allow him use of his hands again.

Isn’t that all unusual?