Fossils of the largest known rats ever in existence have been discovered on the island nation of East Timor.
Researchers from the Australian National University found seven species of ancient rats, one of which was roughly 10 times the size of those living today. Dr. Julien Louys noted, “They are what you would call mega-fauna. The biggest one is about five kilos, the size of a small dog. Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo.”
The fossils were uncovered as part of a project tracking human progression across Southeast Asia in order to gauge humanity’s impact on ecosystems. The first evidence of humans in East Timor dates back some 46,000 years. Those humans would have coexisted with the giant rats until about a thousand years ago.
But coexistence isn’t the same as harmony—the humans ate the rats; evidenced by cuts and burn marks on their ancient bones.
The team of scientists is working to discover exactly what led to the rats’ extinction. Ultimately, researchers say all this information about rats and men could prove useful to present-day attempts at environment preservation.