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Fossilized Remains of Giant Rats Found in East Timor

Update Date: Nov 13, 2015 10:31 AM EST

Australian National University just recently unearthed the largest rat fossils ever. Compared to a mini sized daschund, these rats lived along with humans thousands of years ago in East Timor. Now the reserachers at ANU are trying to study why these rats became extinct. They believe that the humans, who moved here over 40,000 years ago, may have a part to play. ANU Paleontologist, Julien Louys said in an online statement, "The reason we think they became extinct is because that was when metal tools started to be introduced in Timor [and] people could start to clear forests at a much larger scale", reveals The Christian Monitor.

Julien Louys and her colleagues at the ANU discovered the fossils while they were studying the early human movement that happened in the South East Asia some thousands of years ago. The earliest record of settlement in this area goes back at least 46,000 years. The researchers believe that these humans may have not only lived but also fed on these giant rats for thousands of years which may have contributed to their extinction in some way. The fossils that were found have evidence that the humans consumed these rats. "We know they're eating the giant rats because we have found bones with cut and burn marks. The funny thing is that they were co-existing up until about a thousand years ago", said Julien Louys, as reported by The International Business Times.

Previously, the scientists back in 2010 also found and revealed that the biggest rats lived in East Timor. The species found then weighed over 6 kgs and was one of the thirteen species belonging to that time. Ken Aplin, CSIRO, said "People have lived on the island of Timor for over 40,000 years and hunted and ate rats throughout this period, yet extinctions did not occur until quite recently", reports The International Business Times. He further added, "We think this shows people used to live sustainably on Timor until around 1000 to 2000 years ago. This means extinctions aren't inevitable when people arrive on an island. Large scale clearing of forest for agriculture probably caused the extinctions, and this may have only been possible following the introduction of metal tools."

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