New Azora tardolagus

In human epoch the fauna of islands had undergone changes: various species of flora and fauna which could not appear at these islands by natural way had been introduced to islands. Occurrence of these species has broken natural balance of island nature, and ecosystem began to develop another way. New species of animals, descendants of introduced species, had taken the place in these ecosystems.  People had introduced rabbits to Azores (and to other numerous islands of the Earth). These animals had survived in epoch of global ecological crisis and evolved to species being a part of new ecosystems of Neocene. At the volcanic island New Azora very large species of ground herbivorous animals had appeared, a descendant of the rabbit – the New Azora tardolagus. It is the largest species of terrestria inhabitants of island. Tardolagus represents herbivorous mammal weighting about 50 kg. By proportions of body this animal resembles various herbivorous mammals evolved at the continents – fossil chalicotheres (Chalicotherium), megatheres (Megatherium) and Neocene animals - ndipinotheres (Ndipinotherium)and groundsloth rodents (Tardimegamys). Tardolagus has long forepaws and inclined back. Due to “semi-bipedal” constitution tardolagus can rise on strong hinder legs with wide feet and gnaw branches of bushes and undersized trees. Standing on hinder legs, this animal reaches growth of one and half meters. During the feeding time it tightens branches by forepaws on which large hooked claws grow, a little bit similar to claws of ground sloths. At movement on four legs the animal bases on external side of hands, turning claws by tips to each other. Because of massive constitution tardolagus moves walking (its name literally means “the slow hare”), and only in case of danger can run on small distances. Martillas, large local predators, represent the main danger to this animal. Tail at tardolagus is very short, long white colored hairs grow on it. Wool on back, sides and hips is reddish-brown with dark spots forming faltering longitudinal lines. Lateral parts of head are white, tip of muzzle is dark. Forepaws from claws up to half of forearm are colored white. Tardolagus eats rather soft forage – leaves, mushrooms and fruits of plants. Its muzzle is extended, and forward incisors are rather weak. The animal willingly eats dropped fruits of trees of laurel and heaths families, and with the help of claws digs out roots of ferns and other plants. This animal meets in places overgrown with bushes and undersized trees – at riverbanks, in gorges and mountains of island. It avoids the areas overgrown with woods of tropical type with poor underbrush, where there is small amount of food. Tardolagus keeps in small groups of about ten adult individuals and young growth. This animal had strongly changed habit of life in comparison with ancestor: it had lost the ability to dig holes, and only makes beds in bush, or uses natural shelters to spend the night. At danger tardolagus prefers to protect itself actively – it rises on hind legs, bites and beats the aggressor by long claws of forepaws. Thus it growls and opens mouth, showing incisors. Breeding rate at tardolagus is very low in comparison with ancestor. This animal brings posterity once a year. At female one or two large cubs are born. They are more advanced, than newborn rabbit cubs, but not so advanced, as posterity of hares. For birth of posterity female leaves the group and searches for shelter for itself and posterities. The newborn cub of tardolagus is covered with dark wool, but blind and can not stand. Till first days the female hides posterity in shelter – in cave or among bushes. The cubs develops quickly: at the second day it opens its eyes and starts to explore world around. afetr a week the cub is already able to walk. Grown up cubs leave shelter and follow mother to join the group of conge

ners. Young tardolagus begins able to bring posterity at the age of three years. Life expectancy of this animal is about 20 years.

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