The rabbit is a key element in the ecology and conservation of a large number of Mediterranean mountain predators, some 40 vertebrates that habitually include mountain rabbit in their diet.
In the specific case of the Iberian lynx, we can say that it is a highly specialised predator. In Sierra Morena, the lynx diet consists of 90% rabbit, while in Doñana it is 93% in summer and 75% in winter.
The mountain rabbit, Oryctolagus cuniculus, is endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, just like the Iberian lynx. The availability of prey is one of the most limiting factors for the expansion of the Iberian lynx population.
Up to the 1950s, there were two main causes of variation in the rabbit population throughout Spain: the predator-prey relationship and hunting pressure, which in those times was subsistence.
As a result of the high reproductive rate and environmental adaptability of the species, these two causes did not negatively affect the abundance of existing rabbits.
Today, this hunting is no longer subsistence, but sport (with takes in the late 80s of thousands of rabbits in a single day) and to these must be added another two factors introduced by human activity, which are the rabbit diseases, myxomatosis and RHD (Rabbit Hemorragic Disease) and changes in land use. All of these factors combined have caused mountain rabbit populations in the Peninsula to decline to levels so low that they threaten the existence of the large Mediterranean mountain predators, the imperial eagle and the Iberian lynx.
The availability of prey is one of the most limiting factors to the expansion of the Iberian lynx populations.