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Palaeontology

The giant rabbits of Minorca

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Fossil bones from a species of giant rabbit, Nuralagus rex, have been discovered on the Mediterranean island of Minorca, off the coast of Spain.

Meike Köhler at the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies in Barcelona, Spain, and her colleagues dated the fossils to the late Neogene period, about 5 million years ago. The outsized rabbit (reconstruction pictured) would have weighed about 12 kilograms — 10 times the weight of its closest living continental relative, Oryctolagus cuniculus (pictured). The hefty animal also had a relatively small skull and sensory organs, and lacked the backbone anatomy required for hopping — traits, the authors say, that may have evolved because the rabbits had no predators on the island.

Credit: SOC. VERTEBR. PALEONTOL.

J. Vertebr. Paleontol. 31, 231–240 (2011)

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The giant rabbits of Minorca. Nature 472, 9 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/472009c

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