Dog-Sized Giant Rat Fossils Discovered In East Timor

Posted: Nov 6 2015, 11:54pm CST | by , Updated: Nov 7 2015, 11:44pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Dog-Sized Giant Rat Fossils Discovered in Asia
Dr. Louys compares the jaw bone of one of East Timor's giant rat with modern rat, ANU

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These are the largest known rats to have ever existed, says a researcher from the Australian National University.

Archeologists from the Australian National University have discovered fossil remains of seven ancient rat species in East Timor. One of them is absolutely massive, almost 10 times larger than its modern counterparts.

Researchers are claiming that these are “largest known rats to have ever existed.”

"They are what you would call mega-fauna. The biggest one is about five kilos, the size of a small dog, said project leader Dr Julien Louys from ANU.

"Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo."

Researchers were actually looking at the traces of earliest human arrival in Southeast Asia when they stumbled across the ancient rat fossils in East Timor. Now they are trying to figure out what exactly made those giant rats die.

Evidences suggest that on East Timor humans were living around 46,000 years ago while the oldest evidence of giant rats dates back to 44,000 years ago, suggesting humans were coexisting with the enormous rodents and hunted and ate them regularly.

But roasting the rats is not the reason that pushed this megafuana to extinction. The dog-sized rats disappeared some 1,000 years ago and the invention of metal tools must have something to do with it. In fact, researchers suggest that these tools should be blamed more for their extinction.

“We know that they’re eating the giant rats because we have found bones with cut and burn marks,” said Dr. Louys.

“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.”

Researchers are hoping to learn more about when humans first moved through the islands of Southeast Asia and how much they damaged the local ecosystem.

“We’re trying to find the earliest human records as well as what was there before humans arrived,” said Louys. “Once we know what was there before humans got there, we will see what type of impact they had.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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