Friday, 13 November 2015

Seven huge ancient Australian rat species discovered

NOVEMBER 8, 2015
by Shayne Jacopian

Archaeologists from the Australian National University have unearthed the fossils of seven giant rat species in East Timor, and the largest on is ten times as big as the average modern rat, according to a release from the university.

“They are what you would call mega-fauna. The biggest one is about five kilos, the size of a small dog,” said Dr. Julien Louys from the ANU School of Culture, History, and Language, who is helping to lead this project.

"Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo."

The fossils were uncovered as part of the From Sunda to Sahul project that looks at the movement of humans through Southeast Asia. Now researchers are looking into what may have caused these dog-sized rats to die out (but for real, let’s just be glad that they’re not scurrying around anymore).

Living with ancient humans
Dr. Louys said that the earliest signs of humans in East Timor date back to 46,000 years ago, and that they lived with these giant rats for a long time.

"We know they're eating the giant rats because we have found bones with cut and burn marks," he said.

"The funny thing is that they are co-existing up until about a thousand years ago. The reason we think they became extinct is because that was when metal tools started to be introduced in Timor, people could start to clear forests at a much larger scale."

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