Vespucci’s Rodent

Vespucci’s Rodent is an extinct rodent species that comes from Fernando de Noronha which is in north-eastern Brazil. It is thought that the Italian Explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, saw this rat while he was visiting Fernando de Noronha in 1503. unfortunately, it has become extinct. There were numerous fossils found of this animal which were dated back to the Holocene age. These fossils were discovered in 1973 but were only formally described in 1999 by Carleton and Olson.

giant rat Vespuccis Rodent
This giant rat is thought to be as big as Vespucci's Rodent

Vespucci’s Rodent is actually a large rodent, which is even bigger than the black rat. This rat has high-crowned molars with simplified crown features. A number of bone fragments from Vespucci’s Rodent were found, including 5 skulls, jaws, and others. The skull shape of the Vespucci’s Rodent is striking, and its skull is around 38.5 mm. Its femur is around 36.5 mm. This rodent is thought to be weigh approximately 200 – 250 g. It is also thought to have been formerly semi-aquatic, but lost this characteristic when it bred on this island.

According to the Amerigo Vespucci’s account, Vespucci’s Rodent was more common when he first visited the island. However, the first biological explorers of this island in the late 19th century did not encounter this rat.

fossil site e1292848474177 Vespuccis Rodent
The red dot is where the fossil site was on Fernando de Noronha

The reason why Vespucci’s Rodent has become extinct due to the house mouse and the black rat, which are now very common on this island. These two rodents may have drive the Vespucci’s Rodent to extinction due to competition for food, transmitting diseases, or being preyed upon by the black rat and house mouse. Other factors may include introducing predators such as cats, predation by visiting sailors, as well as the modification of its habitat.

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