Named By: Quintana et al. 2011.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Lagomorpha, Leporidae.
Species: N. rex (type).
Size: Approximately 90 centimetres long. 12 kilograms.
Known locations: Minorca (one of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea).
Time period: Messinian of the Miocene to Piacenzian of the Pliocene.
Fossil representation: Disarticulated remains of several individuals, but enough to provide an accurate reconstruction.
organisations often report upon the discovery of prehistoric animals
especially when said animal represents the biggest of its kind, such
as the biggest dinosaur, or the biggest snake. Towards the end of
the first half of 2011 however the newspapers and online articles
were talking about the biggest rabbit which was named Nuralagus
The concept of insular dwarfism where large animals grow much smaller over the course of several generations receives a lot of attention, but the opposite of this is insular gigantism. Nuralagus seems to fall into the latter category and probably grew to such a large size due to the absence of large island predators. This notion is further supported by the eyes and ears which were proportionately smaller than you might expect them to be given Nuralagus's large body size.
This large size however came at the price of reduced agility. The lumber region of the back, normally very flexible in smaller rabbits, is actually quite stiff and seems to only serve a supporting function. The feast on both the fore and hind limbs are splayed and the entire fore foot is in contact with the ground. This reduces pressure on the joints so that they did not have to grow stronger as well as reducing the ground pressure of Nuralagus so that it would not sink into soft ground as easily, something that could have been a very important factor for Nuralagus as rabbits often frequent areas of unstable ground as it is easier for digging. Overall Nuralagus could not run or hop like its smaller cousins and instead just ambled across the island as it searched for food. With no known predators, Nuralagus could afford to take its time. The curved toes of Nuralagus indicate that instead of browsing upon grass it probably dug into the ground to unearth plant roots which were probably more nutritious than the surface foliage.
- Nuralagus rex, gen. et sp. nov., an endemic insular giant rabbit from the Neogene of Minorca. - Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31 (2): 231–240 - Josep Quintana, Mike Kohler, Salvador Moya-Sola - 2011.
- Palaeontology: The giant rabbits of Minorca. - Nature 472: 9 - Meike Kohler - 2011.
- Evolutionary History of Lagomorphs in Response to Global Environmental Change. - Plos One. - D. Ge, Z. Wen, L. Xia, Z. Zhang, M. Erbajeva - 2013.