How rabbits conquered Australia

European rabbits were first introduced to Australia as domesticated animals in the 18th century. In 1859, a man by the name of Thomas Austin is purported to have released 24 of them to the wild for hunting purposes, and it is believed that his small release originated the infestation that exists today.

Over the last 150 years or so, rabbits have absolutely dominated the Australian ecosystem, leading to the extinction of many native species and wreaking havoc on the land and the human population’s ability to farm it. In America, bunnies are cute. In Australia, they are pests.

In an attempt to take their land back from the bunnies, Australians have released deadly diseases to the rabbit population, once killing over 90%. They have introduced predators of the rabbit, built fences to contain them and hunted aggressively, but to no avail. The rabbits took over too quickly and reproduced to a level of prevalence too powerful to reverse. The rabbits have persisted and arguably grown stronger now than ever, not in numbers, but in the strength of their resistance.

The rabbits’ conquer of Australia shows how critical the conditions of an environment are to enabling something new to dominate. Rabbits never came close to dominating Europe, but they almost instantaneously took over Australia due to the near perfect conditions that the environment offered. Once the rabbit dominated the continent, it became very difficult for any similar species, even if it was better in some ways, to be introduced to compete with the rabbit, let alone thrive. The rabbits reproduced exponentially faster than any new species due to their already massive population and they had generational experience on the land as well as a long history of resisting the greatest of attacks on their kind.

In the 21st century, rabbits are built by software. They are technology companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, and AirBnB. Even Bitcoin is a rabbit. These were not necessarily the first movers in their respective categories, but rather, the first to be introduced to the right environment where they could thrive and grow quickly to dominate. Once the bread grows mold, it quickly spreads. The goliaths of tech have become more powerful largely as a result of their network effects, but the critical mass was achieved by introducing a good product in the right environment at the right time.

It will not be easy to kill the rabbits.