Rats could one day be bigger than Cows, Warns Scientists

Rats could grow to the size of cows or even bigger as they evolve to fill vacant ecological niches, it is claimed. Pictured here is the capybara - the largest rodent in the worldGiant rats, the size of cows or even bigger, could one day fill a ‘significant chunk’ of Earth’s emptying ecospace. The terrifying scenario could become a reality as super-adaptable rats take advantage of larger mammals becoming extinct, an expert predicts. ‘Animals will evolve, over time, into whatever designs will enable them to survive and to produce offspring,’ said geologist Dr Jan Zalasiewicz, from the University of Leicester.  For instance, in the Cretaceous Period, when the dinosaurs lived, there were mammals, but these were very small, rat and mouse-sized, because dinosaurs occupied the larger ecological niches.  Only once the dinosaurs were out of the way did these tiny mammals evolve into many different forms. ‘Given enough time, rats could probably grow to be at least as large as the capybara, the world’s largest rodent, that lives today, that can reach 80 kilos (17lb). ‘If the ecospace was sufficiently empty, then they could get larger still.’ The largest extinct rodent known, Josephoartegasia monesi, which lived three million years ago, was larger than a bull and weighed over a tonne. Like its modern-day relative, the sheep-sized capybara, it lived in South America. A hint of the nightmare to come can be seen on ‘rat islands’ – isolated regions where rats introduced by humans have quickly risen to become the dominant species. More
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