The good news, for people living on Vangunu, is that the rat is believed to be an herbivore, preferring the aforementioned nuts and whatever other edible, nutritious plants it can sink its formidable teeth into.
“It has never been known to attack humans or invade their homes,” Lavery said.
Rats within vika’s genus are all very large. Certain rats on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, and Choiseul Islands could even exceed vika’s weight and length. Their unusual size may be due to a phenomenon known as the “island effect,” or “Foster’s rule.”
“The island effect isn’t a rigid rule,” said Mark Collard, an evolutionary anthropologist at Simon Fraser University. Depending on resources available in a particular environment, some species get bigger while others may evolve into dwarf forms.
One noteworthy example may be Homo floresiensis, aka the Hobbit Human. This member of the human family tree evolved on the island of Flores alongside pygmy elephants and other smaller-than-usual animals.
RELATED: Shrunken, See-Through Rodents Created
While food sources were perhaps in short supply on Flores, vika must have had plenty of coconuts and other tasty fare to promote its impressive growth over the millennia.
Vika will soon be designated as “critically endangered,” however, and the researchers are asking the public to help save it and other animals in its unique island ecosystem.
“The best way to save this species is to support Zaira village — they are a community next to the area where the rat was found, and they are protecting their forests for conservation,” Lavery said.
“The biggest threat to this species is logging,” he continued, “and Zaira will not allow logging into their forests. We are launching a campaign on Pozible to crowd fund money in support of this community.”