Rabbit Ancestor Hopped Easily Between Europe & Asia 14 Million Years Ago

A study led by the Institute of Geology of the Russian Academy of Sciences presents a new species, the Amphilagus tomidai, found in south-eastern Siberia (Russia) and dating back to the Middle Miocene period, about 14 million years ago. The discovery of this mammal, an ancestor of the present-day rabbit, represents an important biogeographic link that confirms the widespread distribution of this group as well as the relationship between Asia and Europe during this period. “Amphilagus is a genus that was traditionally thought to only exist in Europe, but remains of this mammal were recently located in Asia. The discovery of this mammal on the continent of Asia indicates that there were some paleogeographic and environmental conditions that favored the expansion of this species towards the east,” explains Chiara Angelone, Ph.D., a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology Miquel Crusafont and a co-author of the new study published in the journal Historical Biology, Volume 28, Issues 1-2, 2016. The article is titled “A New Species of the Genus Amphilagus (Lagomorpha, Mammalia) from the Middle Miocene of Southeastern Siberia.” According to the study, the Miocene period–which began 23 million years ago and ended 5.3 million years ago– gave rise to the barrier-free linking of Europe and Asia which would have allowed for the spread of this animal. The Paratethys Sea – which was located to the south of Europe and spanned from the northern Alps to the Aral Sea in western Asia – had disappeared, and a lack of high mountains here meant that there were no barriers to hinder this animal's expansion. This situation favored the spread of the mammal among open landscapes, aided by a cool, dry climate. “These ancient animals help us to better understand the climatic and paleogeographic conditions of that period in time.
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