The largest rodent known to man was a prehistoric bull-sized creature known as Josephoartigasia monesi, remains of which have been unearthed in Uruguay.
How big was it?
If you thought the ‘Rodents of Unusual Size’ in the 1987 family film The Princess Bride were big, think again! These prehistoric rats were 3 metres (10 feet) long and weighed in at a formidable one ton. Today’s biggest rodents, the capybara and pacarana, would have been dwarfed, and even your best rat-trap wouldn’t have stopped this monster.
What did it eat?
This rodent was a herbivore that lived on aquatic plants and fruits as its teeth were not suitable for grazing on grass. It may have also gnawed on wood similar to today’s beavers.
How did it hunt?
Mega rodent was not so much interested in hunting as protecting itself from attack as it foraged for wood, plants and other herbivore delicacies. The rodent had foot-long incisors used to fend off the likes of sabre-tooth cats and terror birds (flightless carnivores found alongside dinosaurs).
When was it around?
This mega rodent could be found between 2 and 4 million years ago, during the Pilocene and early Pleistocene eras.
The pacarana is the largest living relative of the mega rodent and weighs up to 15kg, a mere fraction of the one ton mega rodent. The black rat, weighing about half a kilo, is about 200 times smaller. Now imagine this gargantuan rodent rummaging through your rubbish bin.