A rodent as big as a buffalo

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Modern-day mousetraps wouldn’t stand a chance against the supersize rodents that roamed South America about 2 million years ago, National Geographic reports. A giant ancestor of the guinea pig, Josephoartigasia monesi weighed more than 2,000 pounds and stood 5 feet tall, roughly the size of a modern buffalo. Because the critter also sported foot-long buckteeth, University of York scientists wanted to know what these rodents ate and how they used those massive incisors. Creating a computer model of the animal’s skull—
only one of which has ever been found—the researchers estimated that the force its jaw would produce during a bite was similar to that of a tiger, suggesting the rodents were omnivorous, feeding on both plants and other animals. But they also noted that the protruding front teeth could exert forces well beyond what’s required to chew food, making it likely the rodents used them to dig and to fend off predators. That would mean that Josephoartigasia monesi behaved “in an elephant-like manner,” the authors concluded, using its incisors like tusks.”