Ancestors to the modern rat grew to the size of a small dog, researchers found.
A new study claims that the ancient ancestors of rats grew to a size of 11 pounds, about the size of a small dog.
Today’s rats grow to be about two pounds maximum, but many thousands of years ago they grew to be much bigger than that, according to findings presented recently at the Meetings of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology in Texas as reported by the Washington Post.
The researchers found evidence of eight species of rodent on the Indonesian island of Timor, and they would have made the big New York rats look like church mice in comparison.
The samples date back about 44,000 years ago, and evidence suggests that humans hunted them for food. They found bones with cut and burn marks on them, a good indication that they were being used for food.
They probably didn’t die out due to humans eating them, as the last of the giant rats on that island went extinct probably only a thousand years ago.
Julien Louys, a researcher with Australian National University, said in a statement on the findings that it was actually deforestation when humans invented metal tools that probably led about to the end of the species.
In fact, scientists believe just two mammal species that were native to Timor are still surviving today.
These new findings could provide some interesting information on human migration and Timor’s ecosystem. And it’s a sobering reminder of just what kind of effect we had on the environment even all those years ago.