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New Giant Rat Discovered in Extinct Volcano

Posted by: Loren Coleman on September 7th, 2009


The Bosavi woolly rat (Mallomys sp.?). Photo courtesy of BBC.

In a news release promoting a new series on the BBC, information has been announced on September 7, 2009, of the finds of new species, including a giant, woolly rat. (The story has been widely disseminated; see this CNN version, as well.)

A BBC film crew recording a programme in an extinct volcano in Papua New Guinea has discovered a new species of giant woolly rat, a frog with fangs, and around 40 other exotic creatures unknown to science.

Dr George McGavin and his team of biologists were stunned to spot a new species of frog within a minute of setting foot from their helicopter on the rim of the crater of Mount Bosavi.

“It was mind-blowing,” said Dr McGavin, the head scientist of the BBC Natural History unit. “Allen Allison, a specialist in amphibians, said, ‘I think that’s one there over by your foot’. I nearly trod on it.”

The woolly rat, which measures nearly 3ft (82cm) in length and weighs more than 3lb (1.5kg), was captured on film in an infrared camera trap set up on the densely wooded slopes.

Provisionally named the Bosavi woolly rat, it is thought to live only in the crater and nowhere else in the world. It has no fear of humans.

“I had a cat and it was about the same size as this rat,” said Gordon Buchanan, the cameraman who first observed the creature.

Dr McGavin said the vegetarian rat was incredibly tame: “It just sat next to me nibbling on a piece of leaf. It won’t have seen a human before. The crater of Bosavi really is the lost world.”

The animal has a silver-brown coat of long, thick fur that probably helps it to survive the wet, cold winters inside the 1,000m high crater walls.

It is thought to belong to the rodent genus Mallomys, which contains other out-sized rat species including another giant woolly rat found in the Foja Mountains of Papua New Guinea by an expedition led by Conservation International in 2007.


The similar giant rat discovered in 2007 is pictured above.

Although the Bosavi rat is about five times the size of a brown rat of the genus Rattus that is familiar in Britain, it is dwarfed by other giant rodents elsewhere in the world, such as the South American capybara, which can reach 65kg.

Steve Greenwood, series producer for Lost Land of the Volcano, said that the team clambered down into the crater from the volcano’s 2,800m summit in January with the help of local trackers, and spent two weeks filming.

They suspect that they may have catalogued for the first time up to 40 new species, including 16 species of frog, at least three new species of fish, 20 species of insect and spider and one new species of bat.

They saw stick insects the length of a man’s forearm, an extremely hairy caterpillar that Dr McGavin hopes to name after Dennis Healey’s eyebrows, and butterfies the size of a paperback book.

“Highlights include a camouflaged gecko, a fanged frog and a fish called the Henamo Grunter, so named because it makes grunting noises from its swim bladder,” Mr Greenwood said.

Steve Backshall, a climber and naturalist, described how a Bosavi silky cuscus, a fruit-eating marsupial, climbed onto his shoulder.

“I can’t begin to describe how it feels to have an animal in my hands that in all probability has never before been seen by science,” he said.

“Most biologists would consider it a great achievement to name one new species but at some points on this trip it seemed like everything we were looking at was new. The end of every day was like a massive party. It was very special.”

Lost Land of the Volcano goes out on BBC One starting tomorrow night at 9pm. The episode featuring the giant rat will be screened in two weeks’ time.

Next March 2010, the team is traveling to Bhutan in search of more new species.

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About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


9 Responses to “New Giant Rat Discovered in Extinct Volcano”

  1. Richard888 responds:

    Fascinating stuff! Reading this article was pure delight.

  2. HOOSIERHUNTER responds:

    Looks to almost be the size of a New York sewer rat! LOL

  3. Weird New Englander responds:

    Now that is a big rat, I must say! lol Good find I might add.

  4. Shelley responds:

    Didn’t Sherlock Holmes discover a “giant rat of Sumatra?”

  5. Lee Murphy responds:

    I want one of those rats.

  6. David-Australia responds:

    The original story (in australia at least) was that Mt Busavi was on an “island” off the coast (complete with image). I did a Google Maps check and it proved otherwise. Apparently someone else in the media has decided to report it properly!

  7. ctinn responds:

    I can’t wait to see pics of the frog with fangs.

  8. mystery_man responds:

    Although this is a cool discovery, the huge size of the rat is not too big a surprise. Rodents generally tend towards insular gigantism (island gigantism). This is the tendency of some species in island habitats to become larger than their continental relatives due to a wide variety of reasons, such as lack of predators or competitors, more or less a removal of restrictions, among others. This is in contrast to isular dwarfism, which is when certain species, usually predators or animals that started out larger, are miniaturized typically due to the addition of ecological restrictions in the island habitat. Both of these can occur in a much shorter span of time than what we see in the evolution of continental animals as well.

    Rodents have demonstrated a consistent trend towards insular gigantism, and there are many examples of this among both extant and extinct island rodent species. The Maclear’s rat of Christmas Island, the St. Lucia giant rice rat, the Canary Island giant rat, the Malagasy rat, all of these are examples of insular gigantism at work. The discovery of this new species makes me wonder what other giant rodents may be awaiting discovery on in the island “lost world’s” of this planet of ours.

    Interesting article.

  9. cryptidsrus responds:

    HoosierHunter:

    We have to PROVE those “Nyc Sewer Rats” really are THAT Big.

    Personally, I have no problem believing that. :)

    But that’s just me.

    I also cannot wait to see the Frog with Fangs. Great post.



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