King of the Rats Weighed One Tonne
Fossil hunters have uncovered the greatest rodent that ever lived -- a one-tonne behemoth that bestrode the swamplands of South America some four million years ago.
The newly-identified species is the greatest-known member of the order Rodentia and by comparison makes the biggest rodent alive today, the 60-kilo (132-pound) capybara, look like a pygmy shrew.
The skull of the extraordinary beast was found in a broken boulder on Kiyu Beach on the coast of Uruguay's River Plate region.
Measuring a whopping 53 centimetres (21 inches), the skull has massive incisors several centimetres long.
Despite this fearsome look, the creature was not carnivorous and looked more hippo-like than rat-like.
Its small grinding teeth suggest it had only weak masticatory muscles for chewing food, and probably tucked into soft vegetation, fruit and squidgy aquatic plants in deltas, the experts say.
The newly-found species has been dubbed Josephoartigasia monesi, in honour of Alvaro Mones, a Uruguayan palaeontologist who specialised in South American rodents.
Tags: Fossil | Rat | Rodent | Rodentia | Josephoartigasia Monesi