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Temporal range: Burdigalian–Holocene
Prolagus skeleton SI.jpg
A Prolagus sardus skeleton
Reconstruction of Prolagus sardus
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Lagomorpha
Family: Ochotonidae
Genus: Prolagus
Pomel, 1853
Type species
Prolagus oeningensis
König, 1825

See text

Pika Prolagus sp. fossil distribution map.png
Prolagus sp. fossils distribution map. P. oeningensis is red, P. michauxi blue, P. crusafonti green, P. sorbinii pink, P. vasconiensis yellow, other Prolagus species including indet. are black.[1][n 1]

Prolagus is an extinct genus of pika within the order Lagomorpha. Over 20 species of Prolagus have been named, beginning in the Early Miocene in Europe 20 million years ago, where it ranged widely for most of the epoch; by the end of the Middle Pleistocene, it was confined to a single species, the Sardinian pika (P. sardus), on the Mediterranean islands of Corsica, Sardinia, and surrounding islands, where it survived into historical times.[3] In Africa and Asia, the genus is known from the Miocene and Pliocene.[4] The scientific name may mean "before hares" or "primitive hares" (pro- meaning "before" and lagos meaning "hare").


Prolagus was first named by Auguste Pomel in 1853. Prolagus has been considered by most taxonomists to be a member of the pika family Ochotonidae, but distinct from living pikas, which all belong to the genus Ochotona.[5] Erbaleva in 1988 suggested it represented the only member of the monotypic family Prolagidae due to its distinct dental formula;[6] this proposal was considered invalid by Nieves López Martínez, due to the fact that many mammal families have lineages with distinct dental formulae.[5] However, many authorities such as the IUCN Red List and American Society of Mammalogists accept Prolagidae as valid.[7][8]


Prolagus is distinguished by a continuously growing dentition, a lack of a lower third molar, a trilobed second lower molar and unusually shaped premolars, with additional cusps in the lower third premolar. In comparison to modern pikas of the genus Ochotona, they have one less dorsal vertebra in the spinal column. Most species of Prolagus probably weighed around 500 g, similar to a living pika.[5] A specimen with preserved soft-tissue is known from late Miocene aged deposits from Andance in France, which shows that its overall proportions, shape of the ears and lack of tail are similar to living Ochotona.[5]


Over 20 species of Prolagus have been named.[5][9][10]

Species Author and year Temporal range Location Notes & description
P. oeningensis König, 1825 late-Middle Miocene Germany
P. sardus Wagner, 1829 Middle Pleistocene-Holocene Sardinia, Corsica, and surrounding islands
P. calpensis F. Major, 1905 Pliocene Gibraltar
P. vasconiensis Viret, 1930 Early Miocene France
P. bilobus Heller, 1936 Pliocene Germany
P. osmolskae[11] Fostowicz-Frelik, 2010 Pliocene Poland Has been considered a junior synonym of P. bilobus[12]
P. crusafonti Lopez-Martinez, 1975 Late Miocene Spain
P. michauxi Lopez-Martinez, 1975 Pliocene France
P. ibericus Lopez-Martinez, 1975 Pliocene Spain
P. figaro Lopez-Martinez, 1975 Pliocene Sardinia and Corsica
P. depereti Lopez-Martinez, 1975 Pliocene France Originally described as a subspecies of P. figaro
P. schnaitheimensis Tobien, 1975 early-Middle Miocene Germany
P. tobieni Lopez-Martinez, 1977 late-Middle Miocene Spain
P. major Lopez-Martinez, 1977 late-Middle Miocene Spain
P. praevasconiensis Ringeade, 1978 Early Miocene France
P. apricenicus Mazza, 1987 Late Miocene Italy Part of endemic Gargano island fauna
P. imperialis
P. sorbini Massini, 1989 Latest Miocene Italy
P. aguilari Lopez-Martinez, 1997 early Middle Miocene France
P. fortis Lopez-Martinez et Sese, 1990 Early Miocene Spain
P. caucasicus Averianov et Tesakov, 1998 Pliocene Russia
P. pannonicus[13] Angelone & Čermák, 2015 Late Miocene Hungary
P. latiuncinatus[13]
P. italicus[14] Angelone, 2008 Pliocene Italy

Evolutionary history and ecology[edit]

Prolagus likely evolved from the Oligocene-earliest Miocene genus Piezodus. The distribution of Prolagus between 20-8 million years ago extends from the Iberian Peninsula in the west to Anatolia in the east, extending as far north as central Germany, though it was absent from the Italian Peninsula. Early Prolagus species are thought to have inhabited subtropical swamp and wetland environments, with a similar ecology to the living marsh rabbit (Sylvilagus palustris). In many European Miocene localities remains of Prolagus are extraordinarily abundant, and Prolagus species probably played a key role as prey for many predators. During the late Miocene, Prolagus dispersed into North Africa due to the connection between Africa and Europe as a result of the Messinian salinity crisis. The range of Prolagus shifted southwards and substantially contracted outside of North Africa during the Pliocene, due to climatic cooling and increasing aridity, though the genus reached its highest species richness at 9 species due to habitat fragmentation leading to speciation.[5] Prolagus first arrived in Corsica, Sardinia, and other Mediterranean islands at the early-late Pliocene boundary, likely due to an emergent land connection. The earliest remains of Prolagus on the islands are represented by the species P. figaro, ancestral to P. sardus.[15] Among the last continental species of Prolagus is P. calpensis from the Early-Middle Pleistocene of the Iberian Peninsula. By the end of the Pleistocene, Prolagus was confined to Corsica, Sardinia and surrounding islands. The cause of the extinction of the mainland Prolagus species is not clear, but has been suggested to be due to increased predation pressure.[5]


  1. ^ The coordinates of few additional fossils not listed in the xls file attached to Ge and all paper[1] were taken from the Paleobiology Database.[2][pdb 1][pdb 2][pdb 3][pdb 4][pdb 5][pdb 6][pdb 7][pdb 8][pdb 9][pdb 10]


  1. ^ a b Ge, Deyan; Wen, Zhixin; Xia, Lin; Zhang, Zhaoqun; Erbajeva, Margarita; Huang, Chengming; Yang, Qisen (April 3, 2013). "Evolutionary History of Lagomorphs in Response to Global Environmental Change". PLOS ONE. 8 (4:e59668): e59668. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...859668G. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0059668. PMC 3616043. PMID 23573205. Table_S1.xls {{cite journal}}: External link in |quote= (help)
  2. ^ "The Paleobiology Database. †Prolagus Pomel 1853 (pika)". Retrieved 2015-03-05.
  3. ^ Hoffman, R.S.; Smith, A.T. (2005). "Order Lagomorpha". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 193–194. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  4. ^ McKenna, M.C.; Bell, S.K. (1997). Classification of Mammals: Above the Species Level. Columbia University Press. p. 109. ISBN 0-231-11013-8.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g N. López-Martínez Paleobiogeographical history of Prolagus, a European ochotonid (Lagomorpha) Lynx, 32 (2001), pp. 215-231
  6. ^ ERBAEVA M. A., 1988: Late Cenozaic pikas: taxonomy, systematics, phylogeny. Nauka, Moskva, 224 pp (in Russian).
  7. ^ Smith, A.T. & Lanier, H.C. 2019. Prolagus sardus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T18338A1737167. Downloaded on 12 April 2021.
  8. ^ "ASM Mammal Diversity Database". Retrieved 2021-07-06.
  9. ^ Angelone, C. (2004). "Messinian Prolagus (Lagomorpha, Mammalia) of Italy". Messinian Online. Archived from the original on 2012-12-09. Retrieved 2008-01-14.
  10. ^ Nowak, Ronald M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World, 6th edition, volume II. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 1936 pp.
  11. ^ Fostowicz-Frelik, Ł (2010). "A new species of Pliocene Prolagus (Lagomorpha, Ochotonidae) from Poland is the northernmost record of the genus". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 30 (2): 609–612. doi:10.1080/02724631003621789. S2CID 84550663.
  12. ^ Čermák, S.; Angelone, C. (2013). "Revision of the type material of the Pliocene species Prolagus bilobus Heller, 1936 (Mammalia, Lagomorpha), with comments on the taxonomic validity of P. osmolskae Fostowicz-Frelik, 2010". Bulletin of Geosciences. 88 (1): 45–50. doi:10.3140/bull.geosci.1369.
  13. ^ a b Angelone, Chiara; Čermák, Stanislav (December 2015). "Two new species of Prolagus (Lagomorpha, Mammalia) from the Late Miocene of Hungary: taxonomy, biochronology, and palaeobiogeography". Paläontologische Zeitschrift. 89 (4): 1023–1038. doi:10.1007/s12542-014-0247-z. ISSN 0031-0220. S2CID 84114380.
  14. ^ Angelone, Chiara (July 2008). "Prolagus italicus n. sp. (Ochotonidae, Lagomorpha), a new Pliocene species of peninsular Italy". Geobios. 41 (4): 445–453. doi:10.1016/j.geobios.2007.12.001.
  15. ^ Angelone, Chiara; Čermák, Stanislav; Kotsakis, Tassos (2015-07-01). "The most ancient lagomorphs of Sardinia: An overview". Geobios. 48 (4): 287–296. doi:10.1016/j.geobios.2015.06.002. ISSN 0016-6995.

Additional references of the Paleobiology Database[edit]

  1. ^ Ginsburg, L. (1969). "Le plus ancien morse du Monde". Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. 41 (4): 995–998. [M. Uhen/M. Uhen/M. Uhen]
    Paleobiology Database: Pontigne 2 (Miocene of France) (les Buissonneaux)
  2. ^ Antunes, M. T.; Mein, P. (1981). "Vertébrés du miocène moyen de amor (Leiria) - importance stratigraphique". Ciências da Terra. 6: 169–188. [J. Mueller/T. Liebrecht/T. Liebrecht]
    Paleobiology Database: Amor, point 1 ("premiere gisement" of Zbyszewski)", Amor, points 2 to 5 (Miocene of Portugal)
  3. ^ Buffetaut, E.; Crouzel, F.; Juillard, F.; Stigliani, F. (1984). "Le crocodilien longirostre Gavialosuchus dans le Miocene moyen de Polastron (Gers, France)". Geobios. 17 (1): 113–117. doi:10.1016/s0016-6995(84)80009-1. [P. Mannion/P. Mannion]
    Paleobiology Database: Polastron (Miocene of France)
  4. ^ Hoyos, M.; Garcia del Cura, M. A.; Ordonyez Martinez, S. (1981). "Caracteristicas geologicas de yacimiento de los Valles de Fuentiduenya (Segovia)". Estudios Geológicos. 37: 345–351. [A. Turner/H. O'Regan/H. O'Regan]
    Paleobiology Database: Nivel X-Fisura, Nivel X, Nivel Y, Los Valles de Fuentiduenya (Segovia) (Miocene of Spain)
  5. ^ Sese Benito, C.; Lopez Martinez, N. (1981). "Los micromammiferos (insectivora, rodentia y lagomorpha) de Vallesiense inferior de Los Valles de Fuentidueña (Segovia, España)". Estudios Geológicos. 37: 369–381. [A. Turner/H. O'Regan/H. O'Regan]
    Paleobiology Database: Nivel X-Fisura, Nivel X, Nivel Y, Los Valles de Fuentiduenya (Segovia) (Miocene of Spain)
  6. ^ Heissig, K. (1989). "Neue Ergebnisse zur Stratigraphie der mittleren Serie der Oberen Süßwassermolasse Bayerns (New results on the stratigraphy of the middle series of upper Freshwater Molasse, Bavaria)". Geologica Bavarica. 94: 239–257. [J. Alroy/S. Kuemmell/S. Kuemmell]
    Paleobiology Database: Ziemetshausen 1b, 1a (Miocene of Germany)
  7. ^ L. Abbazzi, C. Angelone, M. Arca, G. Barisone, C. Bedetti, M. Delfino, T. Kotsakis, F. Marcolini, M. R. Palombo, M. Pavia, P. Piras, L. Rook, D. Torre, C. Tuveri, A. M. F. Valli and B. Wilkens (2004). "Plio-Pleistocene fossil vertebrates of Monte Tuttavista (Orosei, Eastern Sardinia, Italy), an overview". Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia. 110 (3): 681–706.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) [A. Turner/H. O'Regan/H. O'Regan]
    Paleobiology Database: Fissure 7, Blocco Strada Quarry (VII bl. St.),Fissure 7, Mustelide Quarry (VII Mustelide),Fissure 6, Quarry 3 (VI 3),Fissure 10, Ghiro Quarry (X Ghiro) (Pliocene of Italy),Fissure 11, Antilope Quarry, (XI antilope),Fissure 6, Banco 6 Quarry, (VI Banco 6),Fissure 7, Quarry 2, (VII 2),Fissure 10, 3 Uccelli Quarry, (X 3 uccelli),Fissure 11, canide Quarry, (XI canide),Fissure 9, Prolagus Quarry, (IX Prolagus),Fissure 11, dic.2001, (XI dic.2001),Fissure 11, Quarry 3, (XI 3),Fissure 11, Rondone Quarry, (XI rondone),Fissure 4, Quarry 5 Prolagus, (IV 5 prol.),Fissure 4, Quarry 20, (IV 20) (Pleistocene of Italy)
  8. ^ Ginsburg, L.; Bonneau, M. (1995). "La succession des faunes de mammiferes miocenes de Pontigne (Maine-et-Loire, France)". Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. 4 (2–4): 313–328. [M. Uhen/M. Uhen]Paleobiology Database: [ Pontigne 4 (marine) (Miocene of France) (les Buissoneaux)
  9. ^ Böttcher, R.; Heizmann, E. P. J.; Rasser, M. W; Ziegler, R. (2009). "Biostratigraphy and palaeoecology of a Middle Miocene (Karpathian, MN 5) fauna from the northern margin of the North Alpine Foreland Basin (Oggenhausen 2, SW' Germany)". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen. 254 (1/2): 237–260. doi:10.1127/0077-7749/2009/0011. [J. Mueller/T. Liebrecht]
    Paleobiology Database: Oggenhausen 2 (Miocene of Germany)
  10. ^ Additional contributors to utilized records of Paleobiology Database (authorizers supplying these records) include Johannes Mueller, Philip Mannion, Mark Uhen, John Alroy, Alan Turner.