London: Researchers have discovered the ancestor of the present-day rabbit that lived in south-eastern Siberia in Russia, confirming a relationship between Asia and Europe.
The remains of Amphilagus Tomidai, a mammal that lived on the Earth about 14 million years ago, confirms that the two continents were connected and free of natural barriers due to the disappearance of the ancient Paratethys Sea.
"Amphilagus is a genus that was traditionally thought to only exist in Europe, but remains of this mammal were recently located in Asia," Chiara Angelone, a researcher at the Catalan Institute of Palaeontology Miquel Crusafont, Spain, and co-author of the study, said.
"The discovery of this mammal on the continent of Asia indicates that there were some paleogeographic and environmental conditions that favoured the expansion of this species towards the east," she explained.
According to the study, led by the Institute of Geology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Miocene -- 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.
"These ancient animals help us to better understand the climatic and paleogeographic conditions of that period. Some discoveries add new insight into what we already know. Others, such as this one, uncover remarkable stories," explained Angelone.
The study was published in the journal Historical Biology.