New Rat Species Discovered When it Fell From a Tree

The people who live on the Solomon Islands had long insisted to scientists that a giant tree-dwelling rat species lived among them. But as no scientists had ever been able to find an example of said rat, which the Islanders called vika, they simply assumed that the locals were seeing large black rats and assuming they were a different species.

The locals were vindicated when one fell 30 feet from a coconut tree on the island of Vangunu and was captured back in November. Though it quickly died from its fall, a local man who had been working with mammologists to locate a specimen of the rat brought its remains to a museum in Queensland, Australia where it could be studied.

The animal had not been preserved after death, so its body was not in the best condition. But researchers were still able to determine that this is a previously unrecorded rat species after analyzing the creature’s DNA. It has been given the scientific name of Uromys vika.

The vika can grow up to 18 inches in length and weighs two pounds or more. This makes it four times larger than the rats we typically see in American cities. It also has a long, hairless tail that is covered in scales and some pretty mean-looking curved claws that help it cling to the trees in which it lives.

The rat’s most interesting feature, though, are its teeth. Like most other rodents, the vika has large, sharp incisors. But the vika’s teeth are large enough and strong enough to tear into the tough outer covering of a coconut so that they can eat the meat inside. They also like to eat Canarium nuts, which grow in the Solomon Islands. These also have a very tough outer covering, which the rats are quite capable of gnawing through. Despite their large teeth, the rats have not been known to harm humans.

Even though they have just been discovered, the vika rat is likely to be added rather quickly to the critically endangered species list. This is because the animal’s habitat is being destroyed by logging. Nearly 90% of the trees on the Solomon Islands have been harvested by loggers, leaving the vika only small patches of land on which to live. Cats and other invasive species may also be killing the vika or competing with it for food.

The scientists involved with the study of the vika, and many of the Islanders, hope that the identification of this new species will help bring awareness to the environmental destruction that is taking place in the Solomon Islands. It is possible that the discovery and immediate placement of the vika on the endangered species list will cause more people to support the conservation area in which the rat specimen was found.

Next Article
  • The unstoppable Iron Mike

    If you thought Iron Man was indestructible wait until you hear about Michael Malloy or Mike The Durable as his friends liked to call him. Malloy was a firefighter who lives in New York City during the 1920s but by 1933 he was homeless and had fallen deep into the clutches of alcoholism. You see...

    Read More
  • You Want To Live Forever? Start By Getting A Dog.

    Next time you find yourself screaming at your dog in anger because the young puppy chewed up your shoes, tore down your curtains or ruined your sofa, do keep this in mind: Buddy may actually be adding years on your life! In Sweden, researchers followed over 3 million people over the age of forty for...

    Read More
  • The Town That Respectfully Maintained The Grave Of A Toilet

    General George Smith Patton was a highly decorated senior officer of the United States Army, he is best known for commanding the U.S Third Army during the Allied liberation of Normandy in June 1944. His military exploits are well noted and documented, in fact, he is seen as one of the greatest war generals to...

    Read More
  • New Evidence Shows Menopause Treatment Not a Cancer Risk

    An exciting major new study has found that taking hormone replacement therapy to counter the symptoms of menopause does not increase a woman’s risk of early death. Researchers in the early 2000s discovered a link between women taking HRT for over five years and a higher risk of cancer. It even detailed how patients could...

    Read More
  • The Mysterious tale of Lucky Lord Lucan

    Some claim it to be one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th Century and when you dive into the story it really just begs the question - what in the world happened to Lucky Lord Lucan? On November 7, 1974, Lord Richard John Bingham the Seventh Earl of Lucan murdered his wife’s nanny by...

    Read More
  • A French Noblewoman Who Became a Ferocious Pirate Legend

    During the height of the Hundred Years War between England and France, one French noblewoman became feared throughout France for her ferocious never-ending appetite for revenge. Jeanne de Clisson with the help of the English outfitted three warships and caused havoc to any French ships crossing the English channel. Some may say privateer but at...

    Read More
  • The Native American Who Saved the Pilgrims

    Many of us are familiar with the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, but have you heard of Squanto, the Patuxet Native American from Cape Cod Bay that saved the Pilgrims from disease and disaster? Squanto was a young man when, in 1614, he was abducted by Spanish conquistadors. He was forcefully taken by ship back...

    Read More