Monday, March 21, 2011

Giant Extinct Rabbit Discovered

Paleontologists have discovered fossil remains of a rabbit six times the size of today’s modern domesticated rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus aka European rabbit). The rabbit skeleton was found on Minorca, an island off the coast of Spain. The big bunny is thought to have flourished there 3 to 5 million years ago. It has been given the scientific name, Nuralagus rex, “the Minorcan king of the rabbits." The rabbit weighed about the same as some of the present day giant domesticated breeds (think Flemish Giant) at 26 lbs.
The King of rabbits would have been easy prey since the findings reveal it had lost its ability to hop, and also had poor hearing and vision. Its ears were also small for its size. One possible explanation the rabbit lost the spring in its step and keen senses - unlike our modern rabbits it had no predators. “N. rex was a very robust and peculiar rabbit,” project leader Josep Quintana told the news media. “Surely he was a very calm and peaceful animal that moved with slow, but powerful, movements.” Quintana has also suggested the big bunny as a mascot for Minorca to bring more visitors and students to the island. (The photo is a reconstruction of Nuralagus rex in a landscape with an example of a European rabbit in the foreground for comparison.)