New species of giant rat discovered

Velizar Simeonovski

A new species of rat, four times greater than that of rodents has been discovered in the Solomon Islands, in the Pacific Ocean.

The creature, which extends nearly half a metre (19in) in length, that lives among the trees, and survives on the nuts of that cracks open with his teeth.

The Solomon islands are already home to eight other species of rat, but this is the first discovery of the past 80 years.

The new variety, called Uromys vika, has been for a long time that is spoken on the island of folklore.Hidden in the trees

Located about 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) off the coast of Australia, the chain of islands that make up the Solomon islands is biologically isolated.

The majority of living mammals are not found in any other place on Earth.

“When I first met with the people of Vangunu Island in the Solomon islands, told me a rat native to the island which they named vika, who lived in the trees,” said Tyrone Lavery, a researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago, who made the discovery.

Despite the search of the creature since the year 2010, Dr. Lavery has not presented any evidence of the big rat, aside from the great excrement.

Tyrone Lavery

“I began to wonder if it really was a separate species, or if the people I was calling regular black rats ‘vika’.” he said.

In November 2015, however, a sharp-eyed conservation ranger saw a large rat tumbling from a 10m tree felled by loggers.

The fall killed the rat – but the ranger sent to the Queensland Museum in Australia, where Dr. Lavery was a fellow.

“As soon as I examined the sample, I knew it was something different,” he said.

“There are only eight known species of native rat of the Solomon Islands, and looking at the features of his skull, could rule out a lot of species right away.”

After a DNA test, Dr. Lavery confirmed that it was a new species, which he named Uromys vika.

The newly discovered rat has a long and scaly tail, which researchers believe helps to hold on while it travels through the trees. The animals of the ancestors probably traveled to the islands in the vegetation.

Once on the island, they developed the large, sharp teeth that they use, according to the locals, to nibble at the nuts and the coconut.

These giants, but long-hidden creatures are likely to be immediately classified as in critical danger of extinction, due to the threat faced by the felling of trees. About 90% of the island, the trees have already been felled.

“The area where is located is one of the few places left with the forest that has not been initiated,” said Dr. Lavery.

“It is really urgent for us to be able to document this rat and find additional support for the Zaira Area of Conservation, in Vangunu, where the rat’s life.”

The study has been published in the Journal of Mammalogy.