University of Oulu

Pelletier, M. (2021), Morphological diversity, evolution and biogeography of early Pleistocene rabbits (Genus Oryctolagus). Palaeontology, 64: 817-838.

Morphological diversity, evolution and biogeography of early Pleistocene rabbits (genus Oryctolagus)

Saved in:
Author: Pelletier, Maxime1
Organizations: 1Archaeology, History, Culture and Communication Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3.8 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-12-03


The early Pleistocene is the key period for understanding the evolutionary history and palaeobiogeography of rabbits (genus Oryctolagus). In western Europe, many species were endemic, making them a reliable indicator of the evolution of the terrestrial ecosystems in which many species have evolved. However, the morphological variability of rabbit species is still poorly understood and their phylogeny remains a subject of debate. Through both qualitative (morphological description) and quantitative (linear measurements and two-dimensional geometric morphometrics) approaches, we address here the morphometric diversity of the third lower premolar (p3), a tooth commonly used to distinguish leporid species, in order to assess intra- and inter-regional morphological variations in several early Pleistocene rabbit populations. Our results suggest that the different approaches are complementary and allow, on different levels, a full characterization of the p3 variability of early Pleistocene rabbits and to imply relations between populations. The size and shape variations of this tooth reflect the taxonomic and phylogenetic signals of the different species but were probably also significantly impacted by geographical position and local climatic conditions. In view of the great morphometric variability highlighted in this work, we suggest a careful reconsideration of certain dental criteria previously considered ‘diagnostic’ in the characterization of these species. However, the overall results allowed us to discuss the phylogeny of the genus Oryctolagus and to hypothesize the ecological requirements and different phases of the dispersal of taxa in western Europe, probably associated with global climate changes.

see all

Series: Palaeontology
ISSN: 0031-0239
ISSN-E: 1475-4983
ISSN-L: 0031-0239
Volume: 64
Issue: 6
Pages: 817 - 838
DOI: 10.1111/pala.12575
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Funding: Fondation Aix-Marseille Universite. Grant Number: ANR-11-IDEX-0001-02.
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Palaeontology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Palaeontological Association. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.