Friday, February 6, 2015

Giant Prehistoric Guinea Pigs!

There's been some interesting new studies about guinea pig ancestors in the news that we need to share with you. This is from a press release from the University of York:
The largest rodent ever to have lived may have used its front teeth just like an elephant uses its tusks, a new study led by scientists at the University of York and The Hull York Medical School (HYMS) has found.
Josephoartigasia monesi, a rodent closely related to guinea pigs, lived in South America approximately 3 million years ago.  It is the largest fossil rodent ever found, with an estimated body mass of 1000 kg and was similar in size to a buffalo.
Dr Philip Cox, of the Centre for Anatomical and Human Sciences, a joint research centre of the University’s Department of Archaeology and HYMS, used computer modelling to estimate how powerful the bite of Josephoartigasia could be.
He found that, although the bite forces were very large – around 1400 N, similar to that of a tiger – the incisors would have been able to withstand almost three times that force, based on earlier estimates by co-authors, Dr Andres Rinderknecht, of  The Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Montevideo, and Dr Ernesto Blanco, of Facultad de Ciencias, Instituto de Fısica, Montevideo, who first described the fossil in 2008.
Dr Cox said: “We concluded that Josephoartigasia must have used its incisors for activities other than biting, such as digging in the ground for food, or defending itself from predators. This is very similar to how a modern day elephant uses its tusks.”
1,000 kilograms, the article says! Our weights tend to range from about 800 - 1,100 grams, and there are 1,000 grams in 1 kilogram. That means that our ancestor, Josephoartigasia monesi, weighed about 1,000 times more than us! If we were that big and bit with the force of a tiger, I think the humans would take our nips much more seriously!

We found some pictures of what Josephoartigasia monesi probably looked like in some other articles on this:
"A University of York artist's impression of the Josephoartigasia monesi" (source:
Artist impression of Josephoartigasia monesi (Nobu Tamura) (source: International Business Times)

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