Watch CBS News

Rare giant rat that can grow to the size of a baby and chew through coconuts caught on camera for first time

An ultra-rare gigantic rat so big that it puts New York City's subway-dwelling rodents to shame has been caught on camera for the first time. 

Uromys vika, a giant rat known for being "one of the world's rarest rodents" according to the University of Melbourne, is found in just one isolated spot throughout the world – the island of Vangunu in the Solomon Islands. The species was only first identified by a single animal discovered in 2017, but recently, university researchers said that after placing out glass oil lamps filled with sesame oil, they captured 95 images of four different animals in the species using trap cameras, the first images to document the species. 

It's believed that of the animals documented, one is a male while the others are female. 

While little is known about the species, scientists are sure of one thing – they're huge. 

The Vangunu giant rat is the first new species of rodent described from Solomon Islands in over 80 years.  Courtesy of Dr. Tyrone Lavery/University of Melbourne

"The rare giant rat is at least twice the size of a common rat, is tree-dwelling and reportedly can chew through coconuts with its teeth," the University of Melbourne said in a press release. According to science news site LiveScience, the rodents can grow to be about a foot-and-a-half long – about the size of a newborn baby. 

Along with their large bodies, the rodents are also known to have long tails and "very short ears," researchers found.

The rodent species is considered to be critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, as the region in which it lives is just a 210-square-mile island. The area in which it has been found is a forest area less than 30 square miles that's been rapidly declining due to logging. 

The discovery of the giant rat in 2017 was the first time in more than 80 years a new rodent species had been identified in the Solomon Islands. 

"Capturing images of the Vangunu giant rat for the first time is extremely positive news for this poorly known species," lead study author Tyrone Lavery from the University of Melbourne said. "... The images show the Vangunu giant rat lives in Zaira's primary forests, and these lands (particularly the Dokoso tribal area) represent the last remaining habitat for the species. Logging consent has been granted at Zaira, and if it proceeds it will undoubtably lead to extinction of the Vangunu giant rat."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.