Range of Lagomorpha
Fossil occurrences of leporids and ochotonids and global environmental
change (climate change, C3/C4 plants distribution).
The lagomorphs are the members of the taxonomic order Lagomorpha, of
which there are two living families: the
Leporidae (hares and rabbits)
Ochotonidae (pikas). The name of the order is derived from the
Ancient Greek lagos (λαγώς, "hare") +morphē (μορφή,
"form"). There are about eighty-seven species of lagomorph, including
about twenty-nine species of pika, twenty-eight species of rabbit and
cottontail, and thirty species of hare.
Lagomorphs share a common ancestor with rodents, together forming the
Glires (Latin: “dormice”). Like the ancestors of most modern
mammalian groups, this most recent common ancestor lived after the
last great extinction event, the one 66 million years ago that drove
all dinosaurs extinct except for birds. Early lagomorphs arose perhaps
in Asia and spread across the northern hemisphere. Later, rodents came
to dominate more environmental niches, and lagomorphs seem to have
been in decline.
1 Taxonomy and evolutionary history
2.1 Differences between lagomorphs and other mammals
2.2 Differences between families of lagomorphs
4.2 Birth and early life
4.3 Sociality and safety
Taxonomy and evolutionary history
Other names used for this order, now considered synonymous, include:
Duplicidentata - Illiger, 1811; Leporida - Averianov, 1999;
Neolagomorpha - Averianov, 1999; Ochotonida - Averianov, 1999; and
Palarodentia - Haeckel, 1895.
The extinct family
Prolagidae is represented by a single species, the
Prolagus sardus, fossils of which are known from
Sardinia, Corsica, and nearby small islands. It may have survived
until about 1774.
The evolutionary history of the lagomorphs is still not well
understood. Until recently, it was generally agreed that Eurymylus,
which lived in eastern Asia and dates back to the late
early Eocene, was an ancestor of the lagomorphs. More recent
examination of the fossil evidence suggests that the lagomorphs may
have instead descended from Anagaloidea, also known as "mimotonids",
while Eurymylus was more closely related to rodents (although not a
direct ancestor). The leporids first appeared in the late Eocene
and rapidly spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere; they show a
trend towards increasingly long hind limbs as the modern leaping gait
developed. The pikas appeared somewhat later in the
Lagomorphs were certainly more diverse in the past than in the
present, with around 75 genera and over 230 species represented in the
fossil record and many more species in a single biome. This is
evidence that lagomorph lineages are declining.
Recent finds suggest an Indian origin for the clade, having possibly
evolved in isolation when
India was an island continent in the
Lagomorphs are similar to other mammals in that they all have hair,
four limbs (i.e., they are tetrapods), and mammary glands and are
endothermic. They differ in that they have a mixture of "primitive"
and "advanced" physical traits.
Differences between lagomorphs and other mammals
Although lagomorphs are more closely related to rodents than any other
mammals, the two orders still have some major differences.
Lagomorphs differ from rodents in that the former have four incisors
in the upper jaw (not two, as in the Rodentia). Also, lagomorphs are
almost strictly herbivorous, unlike rodents, many of which will eat
both meat and vegetable matter. They resemble rodents, however, in
that their incisor teeth grow continuously throughout their lives,
thus necessitating constant chewing on fibrous food to prevent the
teeth from growing too long.
Similarly to the rodents, bats, and some mammalian insectivores, they
have a smooth-surfaced cerebrum.
Differences between families of lagomorphs
Rabbits and hares move by jumping, pushing off with their strong hind
legs and using their forelimbs to soften the impact on landing. Pikas
lack certain skeletal modifications present in leporids, such as a
highly arched skull, an upright posture of the head, strong hind limbs
and pelvic girdle, and long limbs. Also, pikas have a short nasal
region and entirely lack a supraorbital foramen, while leporids have
prominent supraorbital foramina and nasal regions.
American pika in Alberta
Pikas, also known as conies, are entirely represented by the
Ochotonidae and are small mammals native to mountainous regions
of western North America, and Central Asia. They are mostly about
15 cm (6 in) long and have greyish-brown, silky fur, small
rounded ears, and almost no tail. Their four legs are nearly equal in
length. Some species live in scree, making their homes in the crevices
between broken rocks, while others construct burrows in upland areas.
The rock-dwelling species are typically long-lived and solitary, have
one or two litters of a small number of young each year and have
stable populations. The burrowing species, in contrast, are
short-lived, gregarious and have multiple large litters during the
year. These species tend to have large swings in population size. The
social behaviour of the two groups also differs: the rock dwellers
aggressively maintain scent-marked territories, while the burrowers
live in family groups, interact vocally with each other and defend a
mutual territory. Pikas are diurnal and are active early and late in
the day during hot weather. They feed on all sorts of plant material.
As they do not hibernate, they make "haypiles" of dried vegetation
which they collect and carry back to their homes to store for use
Scrub hare in South Africa
Hares, members of genus
Lepus of family Leporidae, are medium size
mammals native to all the continents except South America, Australia
and Antarctica. North American jackrabbits are actually hares. Species
vary in size from 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in) in length and
have long powerful back legs, and ears up to 20 cm (8 in) in
length. Although usually greyish-brown, some species turn white in
winter. They are solitary animals and several litters of young are
born during the year in a form, a hollow in the ground amongst dense
vegetation. The young are born fully furred and active. Hares eat
plant material including stripping the bark off tree trunks. They are
preyed upon by large mammalian carnivores and birds of prey.
Rabbits, members of family
Leporidae outside Lepus, are generally much
smaller than hares and include the rock hares and the hispid hare.
They are native to Europe, parts of Africa, Central and Southern Asia,
North America and much of South America. They inhabit both grassland
and arid regions. They vary in size from 20 to 50 cm (8 to
20 in) and have long, powerful hind legs, shorter forelegs and a
tiny tail. The colour is some shade of brown, buff or grey and there
is one black species and two striped ones. Domesticated rabbits come
in a wider variety of colours. Although most species live and breed in
burrows, the cottontails and hispid hares have forms (nests). Some of
the burrowing species are colonial, but most are solitary or may feed
together in small groups. Rabbits play an important part in the
terrestrial food chain, eating a wide range of forbs, grasses, and
herbs, and being part of the staple diet of many carnivorous species.
Lagomorphs are widespread around the world and inhabit every continent
except Antarctica. However, they are not found in most of the southern
cone of South America, in the West Indies, Indonesia or Madagascar,
nor on many islands. Although they are not native to Australia, humans
have introduced them there and they have successfully colonized many
parts of the country and caused disruption to native species.
Like other herbivores, lagomorphs have to deal with a bulky diet in
which the cell walls are composed of cellulose, a substance which
mammalian digestive enzymes are unable to break down. Despite this,
lagomorphs have developed a way of extracting maximum nourishment from
their diet. First they bite off and shred plant tissues with their
incisors and then they grind the material with their molars. Digestion
continues in the stomach and small intestine where nutrients are
absorbed. After that, certain food remains get diverted into the
caecum, a blind-ended pouch. Here, they are mixed with bacteria,
yeasts and other micro-organisms that are able to digest cellulose and
turn it into sugar, a process known as hindgut fermentation. Other
faecal matter passes along the colon and is excreted in the normal way
as small, dry pellets. About four to eight hours after the meal, the
contents of the caecum pass into the colon and are eliminated as soft,
moist pellets known as cecotropes. These are immediately eaten by the
lagomorph, which can thus extract all the remaining nutrients in the
Birth and early life
Many lagomorphs breed several times a year and produce large litters.
This is particularly the case in species that breed in underground,
protective environments such as burrows. The altricial young of
rabbits, called kittens, are born naked and helpless after a short
gestation period and the mother can become pregnant again almost
immediately after giving birth. The mothers are able to leave these
young safely and go off to feed, returning at intervals to feed them
with their unusually rich milk. In some species, the mother only
visits and feeds the litter once a day but the young grow rapidly and
are usually weaned within a month. Hares live above ground and their
litters, containing leverets, are born in "forms" concealed among
tussocks and scrub. They have a strategy to prevent predators from
tracking down their litter by following the adults' scent. They
approach and depart from the nesting site in a series of immense
bounds, sometimes moving at right angles to their previous
direction. The young are precocial and a small number are born
after a longer gestation period, already clad in short fur and able to
Sociality and safety
Many species of lagomorphs, particularly the rabbits and the pikas,
are gregarious and live in colonies, whereas hares are generally
solitary species. The rabbits and pikas rely on their holes as places
of safety when danger threatens, but hares rely on their long legs,
great speed and jinking gait to escape from predators. Despite these
defensive devices, lagomorphs form an important part of the diet of
carnivorous mammals, birds of prey and owls.
Lagomorpha Brandt 1885
Leporidae Fischer de Waldheim 1817 (rabbits and hares)
Subfamily † Archaeolaginae
Genus †Archaeolagus Dice 1917
Hypolagus Dice 1917
Genus †Notolagus Wilson 1938
Genus †Panolax Cope 1874
Subfamily Leporinae Trouessart 1880
Genus †Alilepus Dice 1931
Genus Caprolagus Blyth 1845
Lepus Linnaeus 1758
Nesolagus Forsyth Major 1899
Genus Oryctolagus Lilljeborg 1874
Genus †Nuralagus Lilljeborg 1874
Genus Pentalagus Lyon 1904
Genus †Pliolagus Kormos 1934
Genus †Pliosiwalagus Patnaik 2001
Genus †Pratilepus Hibbard 1939
Pronolagus Lyon 1904
Genus Romerolagus Merriam 1896
Genus †Serengetilagus Dietrich 1941
Sylvilagus Gray 1867
Subfamily †Palaeolaginae Dice 1929
Tribe †Dasyporcina Gray 1825
Genus †Coelogenys Illiger 1811
Genus †Agispelagus Argyropulo 1939
Genus †Aluralagus Downey 1968
Genus †Austrolagomys Stromer 1926
Aztlanolagus Russell & Harris 1986
Genus †Chadrolagus Gawne 1978
Genus †Gobiolagus Burke 1941
Genus †Lagotherium Pictet 1853
Genus †Lepoides White 1988
Genus †Nekrolagus Hibbard 1939
Genus †Ordolagus de Muizon 1977
Genus †Paranotolagus Miller & Carranza-Castaneda 1982
Genus †Pewelagus White 1984
Genus †Pliopentalagus Gureev & Konkova 1964
Genus †Pronotolagus White 1991
Genus †Tachylagus Storer 1992
Genus †Trischizolagus Radulesco & Samson 1967
Genus †Veterilepus Radulesco & Samson 1967
Tribe incertae sedis
Genus †Litolagus Dawson 1958
Genus †Megalagus Walker 1931
Genus †Mytonolagus Burke 1934
Palaeolagus Leidy 1856
Ochotonidae Thomas 1897 (pikas)
Genus †Alloptox Dawson 1961
Genus †Amphilagus Tobien 1974
Genus †Bellatona Dawson 1961
Genus †Cuyamalagus Hutchison & Lindsay 1974
Genus †Desmatolagus Matthew & Granger 1923
Genus †Gripholagomys Green 1972
Genus †Hesperolagomys Clark et al. 1964
Genus †Kenyalagomys MacInnes 1953
Genus †Lagopsis Schlosser 1894
Ochotona Link 1795
Genus †Ochotonoides Teilhard de Jardin & Young 1931
Genus †Ochotonoma Sen 1998
Genus †Oklahomalagus Dalquest et al. 1996
Genus †Oreolagus Dice 1917
Genus †Piezodus Viret 1929
Genus †Russellagus Storer 1970
Genus †Sinolagomys Bohlin 1937
Genus †Titanomys von Meyer 1843
Prolagidae Gureev, 1962 (
Sardinian pika and other related
extinct pika-like lagomorphs)
Prolagus Pomel 1853
Family incertae sedis
Genus †Eurolagus Lopez Martinez 1977
Genus †Hsiuannania Xu 1976
Genus †Hypsimylus Zhai 1977
Genus †Lushilagus Li 1965
Shamolagus Burke 1941
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Frederick Warne & Co. pp. 109–112.
^ The Paleobiology Database
Lagomorpha entry Accessed on 13 May 2010
Extant mammal orders
Monotremata (Platypus and echidnas)
Paucituberculata (Shrew opossums)
Microbiotheria (Monito del monte)
Dasyuromorphia (Quolls and dunnarts)
Peramelemorphia (Bilbies and bandicoots)
Diprotodontia (Kangaroos and relatives)
Pilosa (Anteaters and sloths)
Afrosoricida (Tenrecs and golden moles)
Macroscelidea (Elephant shrews)
Sirenia (Dugongs and manatees)
Eulipotyphla (Hedgehogs, shrews, moles and relatives)
Carnivora (Dogs, cats and relatives)
Perissodactyla (Odd-toed ungulates)
Artiodactyla (Even-toed ungulates and cetaceans)
Lagomorpha (Rabbits and pikas)
Alpine pika (O. alpina)
Helan Shan pika (O. argentata)
Collared pika (O. collaris)
Hoffmann's pika (O. hoffmanni)
Northern pika (O. hyperborea)
Pallas's pika (O. pallasi)
American pika (O. princeps)
Turuchan pika (O. turuchanensis)
Gansu pika (O. cansus)
Plateau pika (O. curzoniae)
Daurian pika (O. dauurica)
Tsing-ling pika (O. huangensis)
Nubra pika (O. nubrica)
Steppe pika (O. pusilla)
Afghan pika (O. rufescens)
Moupin pika (O. thibetana)
Thomas's pika (O. thomasi)
Chinese red pika
Chinese red pika (O. erythrotis)
Forrest's pika (O. forresti)
Gaoligong pika (O. gaoligongensis)
Glover's pika (O. gloveri)
Himalayan pika (O. himalayana)
Ili pika (O. iliensis)
Koslov's pika (O. koslowi)
Ladak pika (O. ladacensis)
Large-eared pika (O. macrotis)
Muli pika (O. muliensis)
Black pika (O. nigritia)
Royle's pika (O. roylei)
Turkestan red pika
Turkestan red pika (O. rutila)
Leporidae (Rabbits and Hares)
Amami rabbit (P. furnessi)
Riverine rabbit (B. monticularis)
Sumatran striped rabbit
Sumatran striped rabbit (N. netscheri)
Annamite striped rabbit
Annamite striped rabbit (N. timminsi)
Volcano rabbit (R. diazi)
Pygmy rabbit (B. idahoensis)
Swamp rabbit (S. aquaticus)
Tapeti (S. brasiliensis)
Dice's cottontail (S. dicei)
Omilteme cottontail (S. insonus)
Marsh rabbit (S. palustris)
Venezuelan lowland rabbit
Venezuelan lowland rabbit (S. varynaensis)
Desert cottontail (S. audubonii)
Manzano mountain cottontail
Manzano mountain cottontail (S. cognatus)
Mexican cottontail (S. cunicularis)
Eastern cottontail (S. floridanus)
Tres Marias rabbit
Tres Marias rabbit (S. graysoni)
Mountain cottontail (S. nuttallii)
Appalachian cottontail (S. obscurus)
Robust cottontail (S. robustus)
New England cottontail
New England cottontail (S. transitionalis)
Brush rabbit (S. bachmani)
San José brush rabbit
San José brush rabbit (S. mansuetus)
European rabbit (O. cuniculus)
Bunyoro rabbit (P. marjorita)
(Red rock hares)
Natal red rock hare
Natal red rock hare (P. crassicaudatus)
Jameson's red rock hare
Jameson's red rock hare (P. randensis)
Smith's red rock hare
Smith's red rock hare (P. rupestris)
Hewitt's red rock hare
Hewitt's red rock hare (P. saundersiae)
Hispid hare (C. hispidus)
Antelope jackrabbit (L. alleni)
Snowshoe hare (L. americanus)
Arctic hare (L. arcticus)
Alaskan hare (L. othus)
Mountain hare (L. timidus)
Black-tailed jackrabbit (L. californicus)
White-sided jackrabbit (L. callotis)
Cape hare (L. capensis)
Tehuantepec jackrabbit (L. flavigularis)
Black jackrabbit (L. insularis)
Scrub hare (L. saxatilis)
Desert hare (L. tibetanus)
Tolai hare (L. tolai)
Broom hare (L. castrovieoi)
Yunnan hare (L. comus)
Korean hare (L. coreanus)
Corsican hare (L. corsicanus)
European hare (L. europaeus)
Granada hare (L. granatensis)
Manchurian hare (L. mandschuricus)
Woolly hare (L. oiostolus)
Ethiopian highland hare
Ethiopian highland hare (L. starcki)
White-tailed jackrabbit (L. townsendii)
Ethiopian hare (L. fagani)
African savanna hare
African savanna hare (L. microtis)
Hainan hare (L. hainanus)
Indian hare (L. nigricollis)
Burmese hare (L. peguensis)
Chinese hare (L. sinensis)
Yarkand hare (L. yarkandensis)
Subgenus incertae sedis:
Japanese hare (L. brachyurus)
Abyssinian hare (L. habessinicus)
Fauna Europaea: 12657
BNF: cb11952085k (data)