‘Giant coconut-cracking rat’ photographed for first time in Solomon Islands. See it

A giant rodent scurried along the forest floor, navigating fallen leaves and nuts, toward the scent of sesame oil. That’s when a camera was triggered, and it snapped five photos of the creature.

Researchers positioned nine of the camera traps throughout the Zaira Conservation Resource Management Area on Vangunu, an island in the Solomon Islands, in hopes of capturing photos of the Vangunu giant rat for the first time. And they were successful, according to a study published Nov. 20 in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

Uromys vika, known as the Vangunu giant rat, is “one of the world’s rarest rodents,” researchers said in a Nov. 21 news release from The University of Melbourne. The species was first described in 2017, when experts discovered just one specimen.

Now, scientists have collected 95 images of what they believe is four different specimens of the rodent, the study said.

Photos show the four “giant” specimens, three females and one male.

Photos show the four “giant” specimens, three females and one male.

Researchers said they “irrefutably identified” the giant rats by their “large body size, long tails, and the presence of very short ears,” according to the study. Three of the specimens were females. The fourth rat was identified as a male by its “large testes.”

The “coconut-cracking” species is “at least twice the size of a common rat” and is known to “chew through coconuts with its teeth,” scientists said in the university’s release. It’s the first new rodent species described from the Solomon Islands in more than 80 years.

Logging throughout the island’s forests has made the species “critically endangered,” so the new photos are promising, lead author Tyrone Lavery said in the release.

“Capturing images of the Vangunu giant rat for the first time is extremely positive news for this poorly known species,” Lavery said. “For decades anthropologists and mammalogists alike were aware of this knowledge, but periodic efforts to scientifically identify and document this species were fruitless.”

The Solomon Islands are in Oceania, northeast of Australia.

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