Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Archaeologists discover biggest rat that ever lived: Weight of about 6 kilograms (over 13 lb)

Date:
July 26, 2010
Source:
CSIRO Australia
Summary:
Archaeological research in East Timor has unearthed the bones of the biggest rat that ever lived, with a body weight around six kilograms. Today's biggest rats weigh around two kilograms and live in rainforests in the Philippines and New Guinea.

The skull of a black rat (right) compared with a fairly complete skull of one of Timor's other extinct giant rats (left). The giant rat shown here isn't the biggest of the extinct rats, which was around 25 per cent bigger again. The black rat (Rattus rattus) is one of the world's most common rat species. It is also known as the house, roof or ship rat and is found throughout Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas. A typical adult weighs about 150 grams. The skull of the black rat shown here is 35 mm long.
Credit: Ken Aplin, CSIRO

Archaeological research in East Timor has unearthed the bones of the biggest rat that ever lived, with a body weight around six kilograms.

Related Articles


The cave excavations also yielded a total of 13 species of rodents, 11 of which are new to science. Eight of the rats weighed a kilogram or more.

"East Indonesia is a hot spot for rodent evolution. We want international attention on conservation in the area," CSIRO's Dr Ken Aplin says.

"Rodents make up 40 per cent of mammalian diversity worldwide and are a key element of ecosystems, important for processes like soil maintenance and seed dispersal. Maintaining biodiversity among rats is just as important as protecting whales or birds."

Carbon dating shows that the biggest rat that ever lived survived until around 1000 to 2000 years ago, along with most of the other Timorese rodents found during the excavation. Only one of the smaller species found is known to survive on Timor today.

"People have lived on the island of Timor for over 40,000 years and hunted and ate rats throughout this period, yet extinctions did not occur until quite recently," Dr Aplin says.

"We think this shows people used to live sustainably on Timor until around 1000 to 2000 years ago. This means extinctions aren't inevitable when people arrive on an island. Large scale clearing of forest for agriculture probably caused the extinctions, and this may have only been possible following the introduction of metal tools."

Each of the islands of eastern Indonesia evolved it own unique collection of rats. Dr Aplin has also found six new rat species in a cave on the island of Flores. Some of these might still be living on Flores but they have evaded detection by modern collectors and further surveys are urgently needed.

Timor has few native mammals, with bats and rodents making up the majority of species. Most of Timor today is arid, transformed from the lush rainforests of the past. But there is still room for imagination.

"Although less than 15 per cent of Timor's original forest cover remains, parts of the island are still heavily forested, so who knows what might be out there?" Dr Aplin says.

"During a recent field trip in East Timor, I found the remains of a freshly dead rat which we knew about only from cave deposits."

Until Dr Aplin finds a larger one, today's biggest rats weigh around 2 kg and live in rainforests in the Philippines and New Guinea.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CSIRO Australia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Aplin et al. Quaternary Murid Rodents of Timor Part I: New Material of Coryphomys buehleri Schaub, 1937, and Description of a Second Species of the Genus. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 2010; 3411 DOI: 10.1206/692.1

Cite This Page:

CSIRO Australia. "Archaeologists discover biggest rat that ever lived: Weight of about 6 kilograms (over 13 lb)." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100726094909.htm>.
CSIRO Australia. (2010, July 26). Archaeologists discover biggest rat that ever lived: Weight of about 6 kilograms (over 13 lb). ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100726094909.htm
CSIRO Australia. "Archaeologists discover biggest rat that ever lived: Weight of about 6 kilograms (over 13 lb)." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100726094909.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Black Bear Cub Goes Sunday Shopping

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 23, 2014) Price check on honey? Bear cub startles Oregon drugstore shoppers. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

Dances With Wolves in China's Wild West

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) One man is on a mission to boost the population of wolves in China's violence-wracked far west. The animal - symbol of the Uighur minority there - is under threat with a massive human resettlement program in the region. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Breakfast Debate: To Eat Or Not To Eat?

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) Conflicting studies published in the same week re-ignited the debate over whether we should be eating breakfast. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins