Remains of Earth's largest rat discovered in cave

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The remains of the largest rat to ever roam the Earth have been discovered in a remote cave in East Timor.

The huge rodent, which died out about 2,000 years ago, was three times as big as its modern cousins and weighed more than 13lbs, about the same as a small dog.

Australian archaeologists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) found the bones of the giant rat alongside 11 new species of rat, eight of which weighed more than 2lbs.

Dr Ken Aplin, who was part of the team that unearthed the remains, said that the find proved that rats dominated the East Timorese animal kingdom about five million years ago.

"It was rat land with at least 13 species of rodents on an island that isn't that big," he said.

While they may not be popular, rats are vitally important to the world's ecosystems, Dr Aplin said.
"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."

On East Timor, which lies north of Australia and east of Indonesia, rats have been on the menu for thousands of years, but recently some species had been threatened by extinction....

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Nicholas Clifford - 7/28/2010

Just goes to show that Sherlock Holmes was right after all -- yes, Virginia, there IS (or at least was) a "Giant Rat of Sumatra."