Cute might not be the adjective you would use to describe rats, however, a new study has revealed that the distant cousins of these city-dwelling rodents are much more adorable and cuddly. Known as ‘giant cloud rats’, these species are native to the Southeast Asian region of the Philippines. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Mammalogy,it turns out that they have been living in the Philippines for a long time and fossils of three new species of giant cloud rats prove that they existed along with the ancient homo sapiens. Larry Heaney, the Neguanee Curator of Mammals at Chicago’s Field Museum and author of the study, said in a statement that in their previous studies, they have demonstrated that the Philippines has one of the most impressive concentrations of unique species of mammals among any country, most of which are small animals, less than half a pound, that live in the tropical forest.
The giant cloud rats play an important role in the ecology of the Philippines similar to that of squirrels in the United States. Larry also mentioned that these fossils of the recently extinct species not only demonstrate that biodiversity was even greater in the very recent past, but that the two that became extinct just a few thousand years ago were one of the giants among the rodent family. Both the now-extinct species weighed more than two pounds, reveals the study. Researchers also question if their abrupt disappearance just a few thousand years ago was related to their size that might have made them ideal to hunt and eat.
Janine Ochoa, an Assistant Professor of Archaeology at the University of the Philippines at Diliman and the study’s lead author, said in a statement that their research focused on open-air sites where a collection of large fossil mammal faunas were known to have been preserved. This was unlike other studies where the focus was on the careful sieving of cave deposits that preserved a broader size range of vertebrates including the teeth and bones of rodents.