FOUND: Ancient Rats the Size of Modern Dogs - Atlas Obscura
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FOUND: Ancient Rats the Size of Modern Dogs

Imagine a rat about 10 times larger than this little guy. Much less cute. (Image: Jean-Jacques Boujot/Flickr)

Archaeology can yield a lot of surprises, as researchers from the Australian National University found out recently when they went searching for early signs of human life and ended up discovering the remains of what may have been the biggest rat to ever live.

ANU researcher Julien Louys and his team were in East Timor studying the movement habits of ancient humans when they found the rat fossils. The remains proved that rats about the size of a small dogs—and 10 times heavier than today’s average rat—once skittered around the area.

Having only died out around a thousand years ago, the rats would have existed right alongside people. In fact, thanks to marks and scorches on the discovered bones, it appears that the humans of the day would have fed on these giant rodents.

While the researchers didn’t expect to find their massive new rat, they are now looking into its past to find out why the species died out. It is thought that the rat population began to plummet as metal tools were introduced to the local culture, which not only would have made humans more effective hunters, but led to an increase in local deforestation. With nowhere to call home, the rats would have slowly died off, leaving humanity with mere rat-sized rats rather than dog-sized ones.

Every day, we highlight one newly lost or found object, curiosity or wonder. Discover something unusual or amazing? Tell us about it! Send your finds to sarah.laskow@atlasobscura.com.