http://www.sina.com.cn 2008年11月05日 11:22
BEIJING, Jan. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- Scientists have unearthed the skull of a giant prehistoric rat -- a car-sized behemoth that roamed South America four million years ago, according to a study published in Wednesday's Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The newly-identified species, believed to be the largest rodent ever to have walked the Earth, was about three meters long and 1.5 meters tall, and weighed from 468 kilos to 2.5 tonnes, according to researchers.
The remains of the skull was found in a broken boulder on Kiyu Beach on the coast of Uruguay's River Plate region. Measuring a whopping 53 centimeters, the skull has massive incisors several centimeters long.
Despite this fearsome look, the creature was not carnivorous and looked more hippo-like than rat-like. It was so big that it probably spent much of its life semi-submerged in water, to reduce the stresses caused by its size.
The species has been dubbed Josephoartigasia monesi, in honour of Alvaro Mones, a Uruguayan palaeontologist who specialised in South American rodents.
Other denizens of this world of marsh and forest include sabre-toothed tigers, ground sloths and giant armoured mammals.
The largest living rodent is the carpincho or capybara that also lives in regions of South America and can weigh up to 60 kg.