Archaeologists have discovered the fossils of seven giant rat species in East Timor that would terrify rats as we know them.
Big ass rodents
Somewhere between the fabled rats of the New York City subway system and the R.O.U.S (Rodents Of Unusual Size) that inhabited the fictional Fire Swamp in the “Princess Bride” lie a group of rodents that once roamed the land at roughly ten times the size of the rats were accustomed to seeing.
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The discovery of the fossils was made by archaeologists with The Australian National University (ANU) and part of the From Sunda to Sahul project. The Sunda to Sahul project is tracking the earliest known human movement through Southeast Asia and the discovery of the seven rodent species came about in East Timor. The rats are without question the largest that have ever scared men and women alike on this planet.
“They are what you would call mega-fauna. The biggest one is about five kilos, the size of a small dog,” said ANU’s Julien Louys, who is co-leading the study/project, in a statement that accompanied the presented findings. That presentation took place in October in Texas in front of those assembled for the Meetings of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
“Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo (2.2 pounds),” he continued.
The group is now trying to determine what caused these unique rats’ demise and what role humans had in their extinction. Humans have lived on East Timor for nearly 46,000 years and quite a bit of it saw the two species living together.
“We know they’re eating the giant rats because we have found bones with cut and burn marks,” he said. “The funny thing is that they are co-existing up until about a thousand years ago. The reason we think they became extinct is because that was when metal tools started to be introduced in Timor, people could start to clear forests at a much larger scale.”
Rats the size of cows?
No. But according to this new study they could have reached that size if they were allowed to flourish in ideal conditions. Those conditions would require the rat to dominate other species and also be free of any large predatory species.
Much of this belief stems from the fact that the largest known rodent, Josephoartegasia monesi, weighed over 2000 pounds and was roughly the size of a bull. Its extinction was complete but did leave the capybara as a descendant which is still around and is about the size of a sheep.
Thankfully,, modern day rats haven’t been given the conditions to thrive as they once did in areas like Liverpool in the UK. Those rats reached two feet in length and were quite pernicious as well as big enough to destroy homes. The same rats developed a pesticide and poison resistance through evolutionary changes.