Paleontologists suggest dog-sized rats existed in East Timor for a long period of time until 1,000 years ago they perished altogether.
An international research team including researchers from the Australian National University set out to discover the traces of early human communities travelling in Southeast Asia. In East Timor they stumbled upon an impressive bounty. Finding fossilized rat bones, part of the research team was excited to understand their relation to human communities and how long they might have co-existed.
All bones have been analyzed and dated. According to the findings they belong to several species of the most hated rodent nowadays: rats. Seven species altogether is a rewarding bounty for paleontologists looking to add as many details to the landscape of these lands several thousand years ago.
Part of the mega-fauna of the time according to the researchers, the seven rat species were giant rats. The largest of them would have successfully competed with a small-sized dog in terms of weight and measures.
For a more accurate comparison, imagine an adult rat today. This feared rodent weighs approximately one pound on average. The largest of the ancient giant rat species would have been ten times larger. Now multiply that and imagine an almost eleven pounds giant rat. While paleontologists suggest dog-sized rats existed in East Timor, these giant rodents wouldn’t have been the same reason for commotion they are today.
In fact, ancient human communities could have been happily co-existing with the rodents. And perhaps even happier when the giant rat species became a hearty meal. Until 1,000 years ago when they went extinct, the early human communities in East Timor feasted upon these animals after hunting them for meat. The clear cut marks on the fossilized rat bones in addition to the burn are a clear indication that they were killed and cooked.
Scientists are puzzled by the evolution of these species. No clear answer has been provided yet. However, it is possible that as larger predators and animals in their environment went extinct, evolutionary space was cleared for the giant rat species to develop. Nonetheless, they were herbivores.
Although it is possible that the giant rat species co-existed with early humans for over 45,000 thousand years, it was also the anthropogenic factor that played a role in their demise. As metal tools were introduced to East Timor the habitat allowing the giant rat species to exist would have been reduced.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia