Extant Euarchnotglires


Order: Lagomorpha
Family: 2
Species: 80

Rabbits, hares and pikas are found worldwide except for the West Indies, Madagascar and several islands of South-East Asia. Lagomorpha are among the most predated of any mammal order. In response they have developed very large ears to provide excellent hearing, eyes on the sides of their heads, giving near 360 degree vision, and long back legs to provide a speedy get away. Hares can run up to 35mph. Although very similar to rodents, hares and rabbits have a small, almost spherical tail and hairy feet to provide grip for running. Pikas are smaller than hares and rabbits and instead of trying to outrun predators, they are more prone to hiding in crevices or burrows. Unlike other Lagomorphs, pikas do not have tails, and their ears are much smaller. All lagomorphs however, have slit-like nostrils that can be closed completely. Unlike most other placental orders, Lagomorphs have some species in which the female is larger than the male.

In response to intense hunting, Lagomorphs are able to maintain large numbers by rapid reproduction. Unlike most mammals, ovulation is not cyclical in Lagomorphs. Instead, it is triggered by copulation, meaning that the female can immediately become pregnant again after giving birth. In some species, it is even possible to conceive a second litter, before having given birth to the first. Rabbits are the most adept breeders of the Lagomorphs and readily produce 12 young at a time. Sexual maturity is reached at the very young age; the European rabbit for example can become pregnant at 3 months old.


Example species:

European rabbit
Oryctolagus cuniculus

Length: 34-50 cm
Weight: 1-2.5 kg
Social unit: Group
Region: Europe, North West Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South South America
Status: Common

Lower jaw of a European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Ireland
Personal collection


Arctic hare
Lepus arcticus

Length: 43-66 cm
Weight: 3-7 kg
Social unit: Variable
Region: North Canada and Greenland
Status: Common


Black lipped pika
Ochotona curzoniae

Length: 14-18.5 cm
Weight: 125-175 g
Social unit: Group
Region: East Asia
Status: Common




Author: Emma-Louise Nicholls
Last updated: 20th November 2005
Return to Fossil groups home page

Websites produced by students on the MSc Palaeobiology programme in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Bristol for academic year 2005-6