Nuralagus rex - The Minorcan Giant Lagomorph
When: Pliocene (~3-5 Million years ago)
Where: Minorca, a small island in the Mediterranean
What: Nuralagus is a giant rabbit. It lived on the island of Minorca and is estimated to have weighed 25 lbs (~11kg) on average, though the largest bones found could be from an animal twice this weight! Nuralagus is an excellent example of the ‘island effect’. This is where species on an island are dramatically increased (or reduced) in size compared to their mainland close relatives. Nuralagus is six times the size of the living common rabbit, but was ten times the size of its contemporary mainland bunny brother.
Nuralagus is not just a common rabbit scaled up greatly, along with this increase in size came many other morphological transformations. It was not much of a hopper, the characteristic anatomy of the spine which makes rabbits ‘springy’ was lost. It also did not have the relatively large eyes and ears that we associate with most rabbits. These features may seem very far removed from one another, but the loss of both large ears and hopping is related to the lack of predators on the island. Nuralagus didn’t need to be constantly observant and able to leap away quickly upon sight of a predator, as there was nothing on the island able to take down a grown individual.