Thursday, March 31, 2011

Night of the Lepus II?

My idea of the only giant rabbit worth knowing:
Years ago, my mother used to say to me, she'd say "In this world, Moira, you can be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant." Well, for years I was smart... I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.

With Easter revving up (at least in those stores where the chocolate rabbits have been on display since New Year's Eve), I was taken aback by this news item this morning. According to a report in The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences:
The skeletal remains of a 26-pound rabbit was found on an island off the coast of Spain. Dubbed the Minorcan King of the Rabbits, this ancient rabbit lived approximately three to five million years ago and now adds evidence to a curious rule concerning the evolution of animals in islands. The so-called "island rule" states that big animals will get smaller and small animals (such as rabbits) will get bigger when the population is isolated on an island, perhaps due to the lack of mainland predators. In this case, the King is a whopping six-times larger than living European rabbits, but due to a rigid spine and short legs, it was also unable to hop.
Above: an artist's rendering of what a rather portly giant rabbit, called "N. Rex" by his friends, might have looked like when he roamed the island of Minorca. Note the puzzled look on the face of that crouching modern rabbit on the right. (See more about this beast at National Geographic)
Thank goodness Jimmy Stewart never had to explain the presence of N. Rex to his sister--much less to the boys down at the local bar.


Caftan Woman said...

Talk about wrestling with reality. I do believe the idea of a rabbit that couldn't hop is the saddest thing I have ever heard.

Moira Finnie said...

Not only could they not hop, Patricia, but apparently these bunnies couldn't swim either, since Spain was just across the bay. If they'd found a way over to the mainland, perhaps Don Quixote might have tilted at some of these hares instead of windmills on the plains of La Mancha a few million years on.

Now comes word that the tyrannorabbits were beaten out on Minorca by some really aggressive goats, who scarfed up all the ground cover N. Rex munched on. Also, islands are evolution's drawing board, with extinction used as Nature's eraser and these newly famous cottontails lost that lottery.

Thanks for expressing interest in my ramblings, Pat!


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