Unsettling news: not only have scientists spent decades trying to confirm the existence of giant tree rats, now they’ve actually achieved that objective.
On Wednesday, the Journal of Mammalogy published a paper in which Chicago Field Museum researcher Tyrone Lavery describes the rats—which are called “vika” and live in the Solomon Islands—that he began searching for in 2010 and have scarcely been seen since the 19th century.
Lavery was encouraged to continue his pursuit of the rumored rodent after villagers on the island of Vangunu helped him track down nuts with giant holes chewed into them, believed to be the handiwork of a creature slightly smaller than a possum, but with the bearing of a rat. “It was only a fleeting glimpse,” said Lavery, according to a report from the Washington Post. “To this day, I can’t be certain whether it as vika…but it was enough to start me thinking we had a chance to find this rat.”
Later, Lavery discovered that “vika” had been defined in the ’90s in a book of regional vocabulary as “A very big rat that eats coconuts.”
Eventually, Lavery and his friends managed to capture an 18-inch-long adolescent vika, four time the size of a standard-issue rat. The specimen succumbed to the injuries it sustained during capture shortly after, but its bones and hair provided enough information for the researchers to confirm it as a new species. Lavery called the discovery “a bittersweet moment,” but a breakthrough nonetheless: “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.”
Is there any crevice, peak, island, or personal nightmare on this earth in which a rat cannot survive? They swim, they contract, they scurry, and they’re not getting smaller. Absolutely fuck this.