How an almost-mythical species of rat was discovered on a remote island


Isuku, because the track goes, is what your common New Yorker may contemplate a reasonably regular-measurement rat.

However Kamare, the youngsters are advised, is massive.

The mammalogist Tyrone Lavery discovered of this rhyme as he searched the Solomons for an additional big rat – Vika – rumored to stay within the timber, a foot-and-a-half lengthy, with tooth so sharp it may punch via a coconut.

And in contrast to the rats within the music, Vika could be very actual. Its scale-coated tail, nice jaws and some uncommon pictures have been revealed this week within the Journal of Mammalogy.

Uromys vika is the primary rodent species to be found within the islands in almost a century, on the finish of Lavery’s lengthy search.

He was first drawn to this chain of tons of of islands in 2010, as he researched mammals on the College of Queensland. Far off the coast of Australia, the Solomons are famend for elusive, distinctive species that evolve in close to isolation from the remainder of the planet – just like the Guadalcanal monkey-confronted bat.

The PhD scholar was sitting round a fireplace with village elders on the island of Vangunu, within the thick-forested caldera of an historic volcano.

As rice and candy potato cooked within the flames, Lavery recalled, he requested the elders what issues he may discover within the forests.

“They informed me about this big rat they referred to as Vika,” he stated. They stated Vika lived within the timber, was a bit smaller than a possum, and was so robust it might chew via thick-shelled ngali nuts.

Lavery knew big rats exist within the Solomons – however of the few species to have been documented, some had not been seen because the nineteenth century. And no rodents had even been discovered round Vangunu, he stated.

So he set off directly into the forest with the villagers and spent a number of days and nights looking among the many palm timber.

He discovered arduous nuts with nice holes chewed into them, simply because the elders had described.

One night time, as he held a highlight as much as the thick cover of timber, Lavery thought he noticed two rats operating alongside a department.

“It was solely a fleeting glimpse,” he stated. “To this present day, I can not be sure whether or not it was Vika . . . However it was sufficient to start out me considering we had an opportunity to seek out this rat.”

As he researched from the college in Australia, Lavery discovered that Vika was greater than an area rumor. Its identify was listed in a dictionary of phrases from the area that an anthropologist had compiled within the Nineteen Nineties.

The definition of Vika: “A really massive rat that eats coconuts.”

When Lavery went again to the island in 2011, he discovered a big dropping within the rain forest. A lab evaluation…



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