Archaeologists from the Australian National University found fossils of the largest giant rat species ever discovered in East Timor.
Rats aren't usually the dangerous vermin pop culture makes them out to be, as represented by your first enemies in many classic RPGs. But while they didn't have anything to do with the Black Plague, perhaps there's another reason rats make us nervous, as a giant version uncovered in East Timor may show. Archaeologists from the Australian National University recently dug up fossils of the largest rat we've ever seen, the largest of which is the size of a small dog.
"They are what you would call mega-fauna," ANU lead researcher Julien Louys explained. "The biggest one is about five kilos [or 11 pounds] ... Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo."
Louys' research wasn't initially about rats themselves. The university's expedition was intended to learn more about early migrations of humans in Southeast Asia, roughly 46,000 years ago. Giant rats were a regular part of human life at that time - in fact, they were likely a regular food source considering cut and burn marks on the bones. The East Timor rats lived among humans for millennia until they went extinct only a thousand years ago.
"The reason we think they became extinct is because that was when metal tools started to be introduced in Timor," Louys said. "People could start to clear forests at a much larger scale."
What's more, these fossils are among seven newly-discovered giant rat species. So while this particular East Timor rat is the biggest we've seen, they were far from unusual in the region. In other words, don't be surprised if giant rats become a common enemy type for any video game set before 1000 AD.
Source: Discovery News