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Palaeontology

Scientists discover fossils of dog-sized rats

November 8, 2015 | Comment icon 20 comments



Rats were once much larger than they are today. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Chris Barber
Today's rats might be getting bigger but they can't possibly compare to this ancient species of rodent.
Discovered on the Southest Asian island of Timor, the gigantic rat species, which weighed up to 5kg and was the largest rat ever to walk the Earth, only went extinct around 1000 years ago.

Its fossil remains were unearthed by researchers at the Australian National University who believe that the species' demise may have been linked to widespread deforestation by humans.

"One of the things we're finding is it's not the presence of human hunters using traditional weapons that's causing the extinctions of these giant rats," said researcher Julien Louys.
"It's actually this massive deforestation and land clearing."

That's not to say that humans didn't consider the rats to be a food source, however.

"Everything from the very earliest deposits, which were around about 46,000 years old all the way up to about 1,000 years ago, there's evidence of chewing marks," said Louys.

"They must have been delicious because everywhere we go there are giant rats to be found."

Source: ABC.net.au | Comments (20)



Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #11 Posted by EllJay 6 years ago
There sure is some weird big animals lost to the sands of time. Animals that we often forget about, since the most focus is on the larger dinosaurs. Animals like; mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, glyptodons, giant ground sloths, Irish elk, cave bears, and short-faced bears, who were related to their, significantly smaller, cousins that are alive now. Like the Demon Duck of Doom (Bullockornis) The name makes you wanna laugh, but I bet you wouldn't laugh if you met one. They were big, fast, and carnivorous - and they were related to today's average duck & geese. Or the Dromornis. Als... [More]
Comment icon #12 Posted by Goodnite 6 years ago
Cavemen said they tasted just like chicken.
Comment icon #13 Posted by meryt-tetisheri 6 years ago
Around this time of the year, field mice try to sneak indoors before the winter...now imagine 5 kg rodents doing that! They wouldn't sneak, it would be "breaking & entering", we would need guillotines instead of traps, and leopards instead of domestic cats.. I am so glad they're extinct
Comment icon #14 Posted by psyche101 6 years ago
Seems an expected find? This is what the people of Floresiensis were eating in that part of the world isn't it? That and tiny Elephants. Weird huh, huge rats and tiny elephants, nature, hrmmzzz. Cavemen said they tasted just like chicken.?? That chicken said that about the cavemen too!
Comment icon #15 Posted by freetoroam 6 years ago
They had more room to move about and grow in then, not quite the same as living in the sewers under the modern town streets. But as usual man comes a long and flattens their land and eats them to extinction.
Comment icon #16 Posted by highdesert50 6 years ago
Shades of Stephen King's Graveyard Shift; but, instead of humans as prey, I tend to agree that it was probably humans that hunted these out of existence.
Comment icon #17 Posted by Aardvark-DK 6 years ago
Yeah, the size of this one would do. Nice kitty ! Add this trap, then we're done :
Comment icon #18 Posted by BeastieRunner 6 years ago
That's a rodent of unusually large size.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Sundew 6 years ago
By a strange coincidence, our family has a rat sized dog, a Chihuahua.
Comment icon #20 Posted by YA AMAR 6 years ago
i wouldnt mind taking it for a walk


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