Giant Bunny Fossils Discovered Off Spain

'King of rabbits' was 6 times the size of modern bunnies
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 22, 2011 2:20 AM CDT
Updated Mar 22, 2011 4:50 AM CDT
Nuralagus Rex: Biggest-Ever Bunny Fossils Discovered Off Spain
Femurs of, from left to right, the Balearic cave got, Nuralagus Rex, and a modern European rabbit.   (Wikipedia/Monea)

On the Spanish island of Minorca up to 5 million years ago, the rabbit was king. Researchers there have discovered fossils belonging to the biggest-ever member of the bunny family, LiveScience reports. Nuralagus rex, weighing in at some 26 pounds—about six times the size of modern rabbits—had largely lost the ability to hop, and had relatively small ears, researchers say.

Scientists believe the rabbit reached its gargantuan size because of the "island effect," which can cause small animals to evolve into big ones because of a lack of predators. "There is an underlying assumption that rabbits appeared some 40 million years ago and have been perfectly happy to stay just about the same," a researcher tells Discovery. "This new species is interesting in that it's quite different from what we know of living or fossil rabbits." (More Minorca stories.)

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