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Tree Rat Reappears After 113 Years

Red-crested tree-rat walks up to biologists
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2011 7:00 AM CDT
Updated May 22, 2011 6:45 AM CDT
Tree Rat Reappears After 113 Years
The rat is "ancient relic of a rodent that happened to get isolated in this area," a naturalist says.   (Lizzie Noble/ProAves)

(Newser) – A rare South American rodent not seen since the Spanish-American War has turned up at the doorstep of a nature reserve in Colombia. The red-crested tree rat ambled up to a pair of amazed volunteers at the El Dorado Reserve in the Sierra Nevada, Wired reports. The last recorded sighting of the elusive, guinea pig-sized rodent was in 1898, and recent missions to search the area for it came up empty.

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Biologists in the field "tried everywhere, they put traps in the trees, on the ground, they looked everywhere, and then it just walked up to these biologists," Paul Salaman, a naturalist whose organization funded a long search for the rodent, tells USA Today. Little is known about the species, which appears to have no other rats in its genus. "It could be many tens of millions of years old," Salaman says. "An ancient relic of a rodent that happened to get isolated in this area." (Read more endangered species stories.)

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