2,000 pound rodent discovered
January 16, 2008
Scientists have discovered the remains of an extinct 2,000 pound rodent — the largest rodent ever known. The find is described Wednesday in Britain’s Proceedings of the Royal Society.
“We report the discovery of an exceptionally well preserved fossil skull of a new species of rodent, by far the largest ever recorded,” wrote Andres Rinderknecht and Ernesto Blanco of the National Museum of Natural History in Montevideo.
The authors say that while most present day rodents are small creatures, their discovery reveals that ancient rodents could grow larger than a bull.
An artist’s impression of Josephoartigasia monesi. Courtesy of Gustavo Lecuona/Ernesto Blanco
“Our work suggests that 4 million years ago in South America, rodents with 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds) of body mass (a ‘mouse’ larger than a bull) lived with terror birds, saber-toothed cats, ground sloths and giant armored mammals among others.”
The beast, which roamed the South American continent some 2-4 million years ago and is named Josephoartigasia monesi, likely fed on fruit and plant shoots, based on its small teeth and jaw structure.
The world’s largest rodent alive today is the capybara found in tropical South America. The semi-aquatic species can weigh 125 pounds (60 kg).