Laotian Rock Rat: Definitely A Living Fossil

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 26th, 2007

Rock Rat

The Laotian rock rat (Laonastes aenigmamus) is a living fossil. New DNA results confirm it is the last surviving member of a once-large group of rodents that was known only by fossils, which supposedly vanished from the fossil record 11 million years ago. Surprise, this is the mammalian version of the coelacanth.

Rock Rat

Nobel Intent, at Ars Technica’s science-centric journal, summarizes the findings:

DNA sequence analysis has now joined the argument and comes down strongly in favor of the living fossil contention. Not only is the rock rat like nothing we’ve ever seen before, it’s not much like anything we’ve ever sequenced before.

The authors of the new report sequenced a small set of genes (six genes totaling 5.5 kilobases) in species from every major group of rodents. They also examined a number of repetitive sequence elements from the same groups. The data suggested that the rock rat split from the rest of rodents about 44 million years ago. For context, all existing primates derive from a speciation event about 50 million years ago.

Given this sequence data, it appears that Laonastes is the only living member of an entire family of mammals, the otherwise extinct Diatomyidae.John Timmer

Rock Rat

Cute, humm? I do not, however, think they will replace hamsters as a “favorite pet.”

Rock Rat

Photographs courtesy Florida State University.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. 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. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

7 Responses to “Laotian Rock Rat: Definitely A Living Fossil”

  1. joppa responds:

    Do you think there may be some more relic mammals out there?

  2. fuzzy responds:

    Why not?

  3. mystery_man responds:

    Well, they won’t make very good pets if you have to tighten a noose around their neck until it leaves a visible scar like the one in the picture. Ouch.

  4. Bob Michaels responds:

    Fossil record from Africa, note the rather long tail and they call it a rat, very squirrel like.

  5. UKCryptid responds:

    Was just about to comment that the poor thing has obviously been nearly strangled but i see someone else has noticed it to. Some people really make me wonder…

    Anyway, I dare say over the next decade or so we’ll see many similar ‘living fossil’ stories popping up.

  6. Gary the Cat responds:

    Well-animal husbandry standards in 3rd world countries aren’t always up to ours-and we have enough example of shocking treatment of pets.
    Still-he is very cute-as a rodent fan and keeper-I want one!

  7. CrimsonFox79 responds:

    I think he’s cute 🙂
    Like a mix between a rat and a squirrel.

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