Scientists have discovered a new giant rat species in the Solomon Islands that weighs more than two pounds, and according to locals, can crack open coconuts with its teeth. It would be terrifying if it weren’t so darn adorable.
Called “Vika” by locals, the newly-discovered creature has brown fur, a smooth tail and wide back feet, which it uses to scale the 30-ft high branches of the rainforest where it lives. Measuring more than 1.5 feet from head to tail, this relative giant is about 4 times larger than the average urban-dwelling rat.
Vika is the first new rodent to be discovered in the Solomon Islands in 80 years, and the search to find it was especially challenging. While locals have long known about the rat, researchers have never laid eyes on one until 2015, when mammalogist Tyron Lavery from the Field Museum of Natural History saw the first specimen after a five-year search.
The fact that Vika spends most of its time in treetops made it tough to spot. It also didn’t help that most of the trees on the Solomon Islands have been cut down by commercial logging companies.
In fact, Lavery discovered the creature by chance when it came running out of a tree that had been felled by loggers. Unfortunately, the rat eventually died from the fall, but the researchers were able to use the single specimen to tease out details about the new species, which they described in a paper published in the Journal of Mammalogy.
The researchers expect that the elusive creature will be listed as critically endangered.