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.

s.newsweek.com

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
ADVERTISEMENT
  • What Happened to Bobby Dunbar?

    On August 23, 1912, the Dunbars, a wealthy family from Opelousas, Louisiana, went on a fishing trip to Swayze Lake, also in Louisiana. The small family group consisted of Percy and Lessie Dunbar and their two young children, Alonzo and Bobby. At some point that day, four-year-old Bobby went missing. Volunteers and police searched the...

    Read More
  • The Unlikely Witch of Edinburgh

    From late 17th-century Scotland comes one of the strangest stories of witchcraft to emerge out of that period. Most people who were convicted and executed for the crime of witchcraft had to have their confessions tortured or bullied out of them. But this person’s confession was totally voluntary and completely unexpected. Major Thomas Weir was...

    Read More
  • The First Vending Machine Was Invented 2000 Years Ago

    Vending machines are a part of everyday life for most people. They can be found just about everywhere, from offices to schools to rest stops on the side of the highway. With the vending machines of today dispensing everything from sodas to electronics, one could be forgiven for thinking they are purely a modern invention....

    Read More
  • Origins of Easter Island’s First Inhabitants Remains Mysterious

    Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is one of the most mysterious places on earth. The tiny, isolated island, with a total area of only 64 square miles and over 1100 miles away from any other inhabited area, is perhaps best-known for its giant statues. These statues, known as moai, are themselves a mystery....

    Read More
  • The Mysterious Tunguska Event

    On the morning of June 30, 1908, a huge ball of fire was observed streaking across the sky in a remote part of Siberia, in Russia. No one knew what it was at the time, but whatever its origins, it exploded above the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, flattening nearly 800 square miles of forest. This strange...

    Read More
  • Testosterone and the Stock Market

    Most professional stock market traders in the United States today are young males. Aside from a glaring lack of diversity, this gender imbalance in the financial industry may also cause instability in the stock market itself. A new study published in the journal Management Science has shown a link between testosterone levels and rash decision...

    Read More
  • Stephen Colbert's Life Was Far More Interesting Than You Imagined

    Stephen Colbert is a man-made mystery. But it’s not your fault, or even his fault. It would be our fault if we didn’t bring it to your attention though. When you take a look at Colbert’s eventful life, it’s easy to see that he’s a real American hero. His story touches every emotion from heartbreaking...

    Read More
  • The Surgery With the 300% Mortality Rate

    For most of his medical career Robert Liston (born in 1794 in Scotland) was a well-regarded and competent surgeon. His surgical skills were phenomenal, with much lower mortality rates than most of his fellow physicians. The reason for Dr. Liston’s low mortality rate was his incredible speed when performing surgeries. Since there was no anesthesia...

    Read More