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Apr 8

Palaeolagus

When: Late Eocene to Mid Oligocene (~38 to 27 million years ago)

Where: North America

What: Palaeolagus is a fossil lagomorph. Lagomorpha is an order of mammals, that contains rabbits, hares, and pikas. Within the bunny-order rabbits and hares are more closely related to either other than either is to the pikas. If you are not familiar with pikas go check out some pictures! They are really cute little guys that resemble guinea pigs more than they do rabbits, but they are most assuredly lagomorphs. Palaeolagus falls outside all living lagomorphs in their evolutionary lineage. It can be thought of as representative of the common ancestor of all living lagomorphs.  

Palaeolagus lived in North America in the late Eocene, after the dense forests had left and the grasslands of the plains started to expand. This 10 inch (~25 cm) long herbivore spread throughout the continent during the Oligocene as the grasslands grew. Palaeolagus could not hop, its hind legs show none of the features that make a hopping locomotion style possible in living rabbits.This ancient bunny is known from a large amount of fossil specimens, some of which are almost complete skeletons, but most are fragmentary pieces of bone or teeth. Most of these Palaeolagus specimens likely met their end as the lunch of one of the many predators roaming the grass lands of prehistoric North America.