Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

#79: The Ancient Rat as Big as a Bull

This giant rodent weighed as much as a compact car.

bigrat.jpg
Image courtesy of Gustavo Lecuona | NULL

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

A 4-million-year-old rat skull found at a coastal site in Uruguay set a new world record in the giant rodent category. The 21-inch-long skull is likely to have belonged to a creature as large as a bull and as heavy as a small car, according to researchers’ estimates. The previous record holder was a 1,500-pound, 8-million-year-old guinea pig discovered in Venezuela a few years ago.

Ernesto Blanco, a paleontologist at the University of the Republic in Montevideo, Uruguay, says that the new champion rat, Josephoartigasia monesi, lived in forests near river deltas or estuaries and roamed around South America among saber-toothed marsupial tigers and huge, flightless, carnivorous birds. Blanco surmises that because of its small teeth and weak jaw, the rat probably survived on vegetables and fruit. Its fate was sealed about 3 million years ago when the continent of South America hooked up to North America via the Panama land bridge. That connection probably allowed predatory cats and bears from North America to extend their range and wipe out the gentle giant.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In