Although new species of animals are discovered all the time, it is very rare for a large mammal to be discovered in the 21st century. That makes the introduction of the newly unveiled giant island rat all the more remarkable. After all, humans have usually already explored the types of places where such creatures would typically be found. Combined with the shrinking habitats available for mammals to live in due to deforestation, and the fact that these animals are by definition large, researchers believe that most big mammals have already been found.
That clearly wasn’t the case with this new rat species found in the Solomon Islands. The huge animal has only recently been officially confirmed as a separate species due to analysis carried out in Australia. With huge teeth, a strong jaw, and the ability to climb through the treetops of rainforests, it stands out from the common rat you would normally find in cities around the world. Unfortunately, despite its relatively new discovery, the giant coconut-cracking rat is already on the verge of extinction.
The Giant Island Rat Was Discovered By Chance
Researchers had been searching for the giant rat since 2010, but a specimen was only finally discovered in 2015 by chance. A conservation ranger happened to see a rat fall from a tree that loggers had cut down and decided to send the dead body off to Australia for further examination. An analysis of the rat's skull and DNA proved that this was an entirely new species that had not previously been seen before.
The scientists who published the resulting study in the Journal Of Mammalogy believe that the ancestors of the species probably arrived on the island on a raft or by floating trees. They would have then been able to evolve in isolation, becoming distinct from their relatives. This has allowed them to acquire traits, such as scaly tails that help with traveling through treetops and the ability to survive on a unique diet.
The Rat Was Found On The Island Of Vangunu
The giant rat was found on Vangunu - a tiny island that is part of the Solomon Islands, near Australia and Papua New Guinea. The land is only home to a small population of natives and is largely covered by rainforest. Much of it has been left to nature, as the locals have survived through limited agricultural development and fishing, although it has become something of a popular tourist destination thanks to its beautiful diving spots.
They Are Massive Compared To Normal Rats
Despite reports that sometimes exaggerate the size of rats found around the world, most rats typically weigh in at around half a pound and will reach a length of 6 to 9 inches. The giant island rat is much larger than that. The specimen that was caught measured in at a staggering 18 inches from nose to tail and weighed 2.2 pounds. This makes it nearly three times as long as a common rat and more than four times heavier.
They Still Aren’t The Biggest Rats In The World
Even with their large size, the giant island rat is far from the biggest rat in the world. Several species are both longer and heavier than this newly discovered rodent. For instance, the Sumatran bamboo rat can weigh in at a frightening 8.8 pounds while the giant Sunda rat could reach sizes of 2 feet in length. Meanwhile, the giant woolly rats found in New Guinea have been known to exceed 2.5 feet when measured from nose to tail.