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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Gigantic Fossil Rat Discovered

The largest known rodent to-date has been described by researchers for the first time. Discovered in Uruguay three years ago by an amateur paleontologist, the skull measures about 1/2-meter and laid in a museum since it was found until recently. Scientists believe the animal to be a new species (Josephoartigasia monesi) based on the size of its incisors, which they theorize may have been used as a beaver's (to cut wood) and/or for fighting off predators.

The rodent was as large as a bull, or around 3 meters in length, and populated the forests. It was 15x heavier than the largest living rodent today, approximately one ton. Its closest relative is believed to be the pakarana, similar to a guinea pig.

Other finds in South America include car-sized armadillos, giant ground sloths, and hook-beaked terror birds - the latter of which would most certainly have been one of the predators this rodent would have fought for survival.

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