In a breakthrough discovery, researchers have found a 19-inches-long Vangunu giant rat species on the Soloman Islands. It is gonna be a first new rat species discovered in the area in about eight decades.
Due to the isolation of the Solomon Islands biologically, the Islands are also home to several mammals that cannot be found in other parts of the world. Solomons are located in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,100 miles off the Australian coast.
Vangunu giant rat is also known by the scientific name Uromys Vika and it is four times larger than the average rodent.
Tyrone Lavery, a fellow at Chicago’s Field Museum and Australia’s Queensland Museum said since 2010, he had been looking for the Vangunu giant rat, but unable to spot any evidence of the giant rat in repeated trips to the Solomons.
“When I first met with the people from Vangunu Island in the Solomons, they told me about a rat native to the island that they called Vika, which lived in the trees,” Lavery recalled.
After confirming the new species through DNA testing, Lavery said that “There are only eight known species of native rat from the Solomon Islands, and looking at the features on its skull, I could rule out a bunch of species right away,”
The presence of the unique features in Vangunu giant rat helps it to survive in the island's habitat. Due to the long tail, he climbs the tree very easily. Lavery thinks that they represent "adoption for life in trees". Since the giant rats are coconut and Canarium lovers so they have particularly sharp and long incisors for their food.
Around 90 percent of the Soloman Islands' trees have been cut down by loggers and there is a chance that the new rodent species will be declared critically endangered. As per the Lavery, it is the lone example of the giant rat was found in one of the few parts of the islands that hadn't been logged yet.
“It’s really urgent for us to be able to document this rat and find additional support for the Zaira Conservation Area, on Vangunu, where the rat lives,” Lavery concluded.