Myotragus balearicus is thought to be a mainland migrant that reached
the Balearic islands during the partial desiccation of the Mediterranean
some five million years ago, along with another two mammals, Hypnomis
morpheus, a giant rat, and Nesiotities, a type of shrew.
Often described in the literature as “bizarre”, Myotragus balearicus
had only one continuous growth incisive tooth, unlike living ruminants,
and extremely hipsodont teeth —with high crowns and short roots— to chew
the tough texture of its food. According to coprolite analysis, it would
appear that Buxus balearica was its staple diet. This is a highly
toxic plant containing several steroidal alkaloids. Ingestion of similar
plants are known to produce gastroenteritis in sheep and goats, with large
quantities leading to nausea, vomiting and potentially fatal convulsions.
How Myotragus coped is unknown.
There is an ecological law that states that on islands large animals grow
smaller and small animals grow larger so, evolving in isolated habitat
conditions with no predators, Myotragus shrank until it resembled
a goat-rat, its movements became sluggish and, unlike almost all herbivores,
its eyes moved to the front, giving it stereoscopic sight, helpful in
calculating distance but curtailing its ability to see predators. Both
sexes had horns.