An elusive island rat species has been identified based on a single sample and its DNA, the Guardian reports.
It notes that traditional knowledge among Solomon Islanders had said there was a large rat, called a vika, that lived in the trees and opened coconuts with its teeth. But efforts by the Field Museum's Tyrone Lavery to catch the rat using traps, motion-activated camera traps, and spotlights were not successful. According to the Guardian, the only hint of the vika was a fecal sample until a rat fell out of a tree cut down by loggers and was captured.
Based on both analysis of the sample's morphology and DNA, Lavery confirmed that this sample represents a previously unknown rat species belonging to the mosaic tailed rats, as Lavery and his colleague Hikuna Judge report in the Journal of Mammalogy. It's been dubbed Uromys vika and they estimated it to weigh about three-quarters of a pound.
Lavery and Judge, though, warn that this newly found species is critically endangered. They note that its limited distribution, the low densities of its numbers, and increasing logging in its habitat all contribute to that status.
"It's important to document these animals to know they're there and conserve them," Lavery tells the CBC.