BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Today’s rats are nothing, as the world’s largest rat once lived in Southeast Asia and it was far beyond what now lurks through the sewers. Specifically, inhabitants of East Timor had once lived around the same time as a giant rat. Even more, they might’ve led to its extinction.
Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), discovered the fossils of what appeared to be 7 new species of rats. The largest one of them was 10 times bigger than today’s modern rats. Reportedly, they were roughly the size of a dog.
It wouldn’t be farfetched to call them the subject of nightmares. However, that didn’t seem to be the case for people living in East Timor.
According to their estimations, they traced human life in that region around 46,000 years ago. This implied that they could have co-existed with the giant rats for thousands of years. In fact, there has been evidence that the huge rodents were a food source.
According to lead author of the study and archaeologist, Dr. Julien Louys, they found cuts and burn marks on the bones. This indicates that the giant rats, called part of ‘mega-fauna’, were actually hunted down, killed, and cooked. And, apparently, they were a hefty meal indeed.
By their estimations, the researchers believed that the giant rodents could’ve weight around 11 pounds (5 kilograms). To put it in perspective, one of today’s modern rats weigh a little over 1 pound (0.5 kilograms). This could mean that inhabitants of East Timor had a role in their extinction. Louys attributes this to the fact that it was around the time when metal tools started being introduced in that region.
The development of new means aided the population in more quickly disposing of surrounding forests, as well as serving as exceptional help in their hunting techniques. This might’ve led to the demise of the giant rats.
According to Louys, they’re now trying to establish the earliest records of human appearance around East Timor, as well as what was there before they arrived. If they can find out what lived there before, they could better understand the effects of humans on the ecosystem. It could lead to a better understanding of both the past and the future.
More studies are providing proof that humans and multiple types of mega-fauna co-existed. Earlier this year, another research found that a giant lizard lived around 50,000 years ago in Australia before human settlements. By understanding how they disappeared in the first place and why, it’s in the hopes of the researchers that the scientific community will understand how current species will be affected.
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