Scientists Have Discovered a New Kind of Rat That’s Huge and Lives in Trees

Photo: Velizar Simeonovski, The Field Museume

Unsettling news: not only have scientists spent decades trying
to confirm the existence of giant tree rats, now they’ve
actually achieved that objective.

On Wednesday, the Journal of Mammalogy published a
paper in which Chicago Field
Museum researcher Tyrone Lavery describes the rats—which are
called “vika” and live in the Solomon Islands—that he began
searching for in 2010 and have scarcely been seen since the
19th century.

Lavery was encouraged to continue his pursuit of the rumored
rodent after villagers on the island of Vangunu helped him
track down nuts with giant holes chewed into them, believed to
be the handiwork of a creature slightly smaller than a possum,
but with the bearing of a rat. “It was only a fleeting
glimpse,” said Lavery, according to a report from the
Washington Post. “To this day, I can’t be certain
whether it as vika…but it was enough to start me thinking we
had a chance to find this rat.”

Later, Lavery discovered that “vika” had been defined in the
’90s in a book of regional vocabulary as “A very big rat that
eats coconuts.”

Eventually, Lavery and his friends managed to capture an
18-inch-long adolescent vika, four time the size of a
standard-issue rat. The specimen succumbed to the injuries it
sustained during capture shortly after, but its bones and hair
provided enough information for the researchers to confirm it
as a new species. Lavery called the discovery “a bittersweet
moment,” but a breakthrough nonetheless: “It’s the first rat
discovered in 80 years from Solomons, and it’s not like people
haven’t been trying—it was just so hard to find.”

Is there any crevice, peak, island, or personal nightmare on
this earth in which a rat cannot survive? They swim, they
contract, they scurry, and they’re not getting smaller.
Absolutely fuck this.

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