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Nature & Environment

Rats could evolve to be as big as sheep

By T.K. Randall
February 4, 2014 · Comment icon 28 comments



How big can rats get ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Chris Barber
The extinction of several large mammal species could pave the way for super-sized rats.
Being highly adaptable, rats could soon grow to huge sizes if other larger mammal species disappear. The largest rodent species alive today is the capybara which can weigh up to 80kg, however in the past there have been even larger specimens - the extinct Josephoartegasia monesi for example grew to be the size of a large cow and weighed over a ton.
"In the Cretaceous Period, when the dinosaurs lived, there were mammals, but these were very small, rat and mouse-sized, because dinosaurs occupied the larger ecological niches," said geologist Dr Jan Zalasiewicz. "Only once the dinosaurs were out of the way did these tiny mammals evolve into many different forms, including some very large and impressive ones: brontotheriums, horses, mastodons, mammoths, rhinoceri and more."

If something similar happens in the future, animals like rats could become free to grow, spread and diversify. With gigantism being a common consequence of a smaller animal stepping in to fill the shoes of a larger species that has gone extinct, it is not outside the realm of possibility that we could be seeing rats the size of sheep or even bigger in the not-too-distant future.

Source: Independent | Comments (28)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #19 Posted by spud the mackem 9 years ago
A couple went into a Hong Kong restaurant with their small dog,they ordered, and said could you feed the dog. The dog was presented on a plate within the hour cooked and ready to eat...true it made Time Magazine.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Eldorado 9 years ago
A couple went into a Hong Kong restaurant with their small dog,they ordered, and said could you feed the dog. The dog was presented on a plate within the hour cooked and ready to eat...true it made Time Magazine. Did they finish it or take some home in a doggy-bag?
Comment icon #21 Posted by DecoNoir 9 years ago
Simple solution: bullets! The bigger they are the easier they are to hit!
Comment icon #22 Posted by Awake2Chaos 9 years ago
I could of gone the rest of my life without entertaining this thought. LOL, and right before bed.
Comment icon #23 Posted by avs76 9 years ago
I'm wondering if the rats legs/feet/ankles will need to adapt to this evolution. To me it seems that their feet and ankles would not handle the increased weight if they were to grow in size. I just had a visual of the Rodents of Unusual Size in the Fire Swamp in The Princess Bride - anyone else remember that? What a great movie ...
Comment icon #24 Posted by Azznerak the Black 9 years ago
Well, Detroit is screwed....HA!!!
Comment icon #25 Posted by Scheming B 9 years ago
Huh, so itd be fair to say these would be rodents and their size would best be described as unusual. ....seems like there should be a name for something like this.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Mikko-kun 9 years ago
I doubt we'd see them in cities because people fear them, they'd shoot them. But I'd love to have them on the countryside, though they could be quite devastating to the crops. The problem is rats can chew their way outta pretty much anything, I've heard some go through even metal, but usually concrete and metal make them choose some other way or place. They could make good guards though. My 1kg rat could make me bleed if he wanted but he's a gentle boy so he just cuddles... but if he wanted he could do some damage. An 80kg rat, you wouldn't wanna mess with that, would bite your limb off pretty... [More]
Comment icon #27 Posted by acute 9 years ago
'Ere, is that rat tart? Disgusting.
Comment icon #28 Posted by psyche101 9 years ago
These guys used to find big rats tasty......


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