• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Super Mammal

Air Date: Week of

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on the world's largest rodent.


CURWOOD: Coming up: environmental protection and national security. The promise of peace parks. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Cynthia Graber.


   An artist's rendering of Phoberomys pattersoni, a giant rodent, roughly the size of a buffalo, that roamed the banks of an ancient Venezuelan river some 8 million years ago. The illustration was made according to the scientists’ approximation of what P. pattersoni looked like. (Credit: © Science / Illustration: Carin L. Cain)

GRABER: Scientists recently identified the world’s biggest guinea pig. The rodent called Phoberomys pattersoni lived about eight million years ago along the banks of a massive Venezuelan river that has since run dry. At about 1500 pounds, this guinea pig was roughly as large as today’s buffalo.

Scientists describe it as a huge, strange-looking creature, with a long tail so it could balance on its bent hind legs, and constantly growing teeth. No one knows why the rodent reached this immense size, or why it disappeared. But scientists say it gives a new glimpse into life along ancient tropical South American Rivers.

Fossiliferous exposures of the formation found in the town of Urumaco, Venezuela. (Photo courtesy of Marcelo R. Sánchez-Villagra)   

South America had been an island for tens of millions of years before a land bridge arose about three million years ago, connecting it to Central America. Because of this, South America’s animals evolved in isolation. The continent was home to a variety of super-sized mammals. Now scientists can add a giant rodent to the roster.

That’s this week’s Note on Emerging Science, I’m Cynthia Graber.



Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth