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Giant rat size of buffalo had front teeth like elephant tusks

审校:卷毛凯瑟琳   作者:Unknown   学习指数: ★★★☆☆

"The limits of my language are the limits of my world." ——Ludwig Wittgenstein

A giant rat the size a buffalo had front teeth like an elephant's tusks which it used to dig for food and fight off predators, according to new research.

The one ton beast, the largest rodent ever to have lived, roamed Earth three-million-years-ago and had a bite force of about 1,400 Newtons – as powerful as a tiger – and the incisors would've been able to withstand almost three times that.

Named Josephoartigasia monesi, the huge rodent looked liked a cross between a guinea pig and a beaver and stood about five foot high.

It lived in the forests of South America where it would have dodged attacks from enormous meat eating birds and sabre-toothed cats.

Dr Philip Cox, of York University, said: 'We concluded Josephoartigasia must have used its incisors for activities other than biting, such as digging in the ground for food, or defending itself from predators.

'This is very similar to how a modern day elephant uses its tusks.'

He used computer modelling to make the calculation after its fossilised skull was dug up in the San Jose region of Uruguay and taken to the Montevideo National History Museum where it lay for years before anyone realised its importance.

The research, published in the Journal of Anatomy, also made a virtual reconstruction of the skull which was then subjected to finite element analysis, an engineering technique that predicts stress and strain in a complex geometric object.

The animal is estimated to have been about ten feet long from the tip of its nose to the end of its very short tail. The jaws would have been big enough to hold a small animal, but its tastes apparently ran to fruit and vegetables, ground down with ever growing teeth.

The enormous incisors extended four inches from its gums and were probably used as weapons against predators, or for processing wood like a modern day beaver does.

Because of its size, its legs would have been under huge strain and it would have needed to stand more like a cow or sheep than a mouse.

Rodents first appeared around 40 to 50-million-years-ago. The largest living today is the eight stone capybara from South America, while the smallest is Pakistan's inch-long pygmy jerboa.

Previously, the largest prehistoric rodent was a 118-stone monster discovered in Venezuela in 2000, which lived eight million years ago.

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