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It is the nightmare tale of the riverbank: scientists have uncovered the remains of a fossil rodent that weighed more than a bull.
Although a relative of the mouse, rat, and guinea pig, the four million year old heavyweight champ of rodents looks more like a capybara, the largest living rodent, which also harks from South America and enjoys an aquatic lifestyle.
The creature itself weighed between one and 1.4 tons. Its skull is half a metre long and reached a length of around three metres, assuming its body was barrel-shaped like that of a capybara.
Rodents are a very successful group of mammals - accounting for four in every 10 species of mammal - but they are usually small, generally less than 1 kg (2.2 lb), with the capybara only reaching 60kg (130lb), a lightweight compared with the new find.
There are various theories to explain why rodents grew so big millions of years ago in South America, explained Dr Blanco. "One possibility is to avoid predation. In South America at the time this rodent was living, there were giant predatory birds (terror birds) and sabertoothed marsupial carnivores. Rodents are not good at running, and their only effective weapons are their teeth, then big size is a good way to intimidate predators."