The Lagomorph Fossil Record and the Origin of the European Rabbit

  • Nieves Lopez-Martinez

Lagomorphs are very prolific mammals with a rich fossil record, which particularly increased over the last years by washing and screening techniques for microfossil recovery. Fossil remains of lagomorphs have been extensively documented in the Old World and North America from Early Paleogene onwards (around 45 Ma). Lagomorph diversity is much larger in the fossil record than in the biosphere. Only 12 genera and about 75 lagomorph species are still living in recent times, most of them almost devoid of paleontological record. In contrast, around 75 genera and more than 230 species, most of them already extinct, are represented in the fossil record of Lagomorpha. The local faunas today rarely contain more than three sympatric lagomorphs, frequently just one or two taxa. Instead, up to eight lagomorph species coexisted in local paleofaunas. This pattern constitutes a rare case in the recorded history of organisms, since the fossil record even in well-represented groups contains a lower number of species than the biosphere. Only declining groups, such as brachiopods or perissodactyl mammals, show higher diversity in the past than in the present, which denotes that lagomorph lineages are also declining in recent times.


Iberian Peninsula Fossil Record Late Miocene Middle Eocene Late Eocene 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nieves Lopez-Martinez
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento Paleontología, Facultad Ciencias GeológicasUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain

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