A new species of giant rat has been discovered, and it’s able to crack open coconuts with its teeth.
The elusive species measures one-and-a-half-feet-long and is five times bigger than an average rodent, with an average size of more than a kilo.
The creature lives in 30ft trees in the Solomon Islands, and researchers were initially led to suspect that it was mythical after the creature was only spotted by natives.
But after first hearing rumours of the possum-like creature in 2010, Dr Tyrone Lavery embarked on a seven year search, which culminated in his team finally discovering it.
Dr Lavery, from the Field Museum, Chicago, said: ‘The new species, Uromys vika, is pretty spectacular – it’s a big, giant rat.
‘It’s the first rat discovered in 80 years from Solomons, and it’s not like people haven’t been trying – it was just so hard to find.
The creatures are yet to be observed cracking open coconuts, but they have been documented chewing circular holes in the hard shell of nuts to get at the food inside.
‘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’, Dr Lavery said.
‘I was excited because I had just started my Ph.D., and I’d read a lot of books about people who go on adventures and discover new species.’
Eventually, the creature was discovered after it was spotted scurrying out of a felled tree in an area heavily impacted by deforestation.
‘As soon as I examined the specimen, I knew it was something different’, he said.
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‘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.’
Dr Lavery added: ‘Finding a new mammal is really rare – there are probably just a few dozen new mammals discovered every year.
‘Vika was so hard to find, and the fact that I was able to persevere is something that I’m proud of.’