Scientist's 'Spectacular' Discovery: a Giant Rat
New species is at risk in Solomon Islands, scientists say
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2017 10:50 AM CDT
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The giant rat known as "Uromys vika."   (The Field Museum/Velizar Simeonovski)

(Newser) – Encountering a foot-and-a-half-long rat might be nightmarish for some, but for Tyrone Lavery, it heralded a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. Back in 2010, the mammalogist was exploring the Solomon Islands when he heard locals describe "vika," a giant tree-dwelling rat with teeth powerful enough to break open coconuts. Reports of such a rat had circulated for decades. But though he searched for years, Lavery only managed to find some rather large rat poop, reports the Guardian. In 2016, however, Lavery was able to examine a rat that had died after falling from a tree downed by loggers and knew immediately his quest for "vika" was over. Uromys vika, as it has now been named, is the first new rat species discovered in the Solomon Islands in 80 years.

At 18 inches long and 2.2 pounds, the specimen within the family of mosaic-tailed rats is about four times the size of a common rat. It's "pretty spectacular," says Lavery, per a release. And though "it was just so hard to find," the researcher is happy his persistence paid off. "If we hadn't discovered it now, it might never have gotten discovered" due to the logging of the rainforest canopy the rat inhabits through use of its scaly tail and clawed back feet, Lavery says, per National Geographic. He also describes the rat's ability to chew holes in tree nuts. Given that Lavery believes the species' total habitat is 31 square miles, his paper in the Journal of Mammalogy requests that the rat be immediately classified as critically endangered. (Check out these weird new bees.)

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