Concept

Pika sarde

Résumé
The Sardinian pika (Prolagus sardus) is an extinct species of lagomorph that was endemic to the islands of Sardinia, Corsica and neighbouring Mediterranean islands until its extinction likely in Roman times. It was last surviving member of Prolagus, a genus of lagomorph once widespread throughout Europe and North Africa during the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, that is suggested to be closely related to living pikas of the genus Ochotona. The full skeletal structure of the Sardinian pika was reconstructed in 1967, thanks to the numerous finds of bones in Corbeddu Cave, which is near Oliena, Sardinia. Some years later, from these remains, the same researchers led by paleontologist Mary R. Dawson from the US were able to create a plaster reconstruction with good accuracy, and provide a thorough description of the skeleton's morphology published in 1969. The Sardinian pika was probably much stockier and more robust than extant species of pikas, and it probably resembled a sort of cross between a large wild rabbit and a pika. The first articulated skeletons of P. sardus were reported in 2016. Prolagus sardus weighed about . This is more than its ancestor Prolagus figaro, which is the only other member of Prolagus that was found in Sardinia and weighed about , and is larger than most mainland species of Prolagus. Compared to mainland species of Prolagus, P. sardus had larger and more hypsodont (high crowned) teeth. The Sardinian pika experienced anagenic evolution, with an increasing body size and shifting dental morphology over time. Abundant fossil and subfossil remains of P. sardus are known from several localities across Corsica and Sardinia hint at the once broad geographical range of this Prolagus species: it lived from sea level up to at least 800 m (2,624 ft.) in a variety of habitats (grasslands, shrublands). Its morphology suggests that it was capable of traversing rocky terrain, and was probably a proficient jumper and capable of digging, but was not adapted for running.
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