Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Guinea-zilla"

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Oh do I ever love mega-fauna, especially when it's something you completely wouldn't expect. Giant Mammoth? Alright, sure, Elephants are big. Giant Bear? Yeah, that too. But what about a Giant Guinea Pig? And now, I'm not talking about something Capybara sized. (Capybaras, for reference, are the world's largest living rodents and weigh up to 130lbs) Oh no, no no no. Phoberomys pattersoni, first discovered in 1999 and just recently published about, was a massive rodent that exceeded 1,500lbs. A typical modern guinea pig weights about 2lbs. That is 750 Guinea Pigs or about the size of a Buffalo!

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But never you fear. Phoberomys pattersoni died out about eight million years ago, and even when it was alive, it was an herbivore that fed off of sea grasses in Venezuela's Orinoco Delta. Its hind limbs were much more powerful than its front ones, and it had a strong tail that suggests that it sat up while eating.

So what ate it? Well, back around the same time and place their also existed one of the largest Crocodylians ever; Purussaurus brasiliensis measured somewhere in the ballpark of 12m. And given that P. pattersoni was found in semi-aquatic riverside habitats, they may have interacted. It is believed that P. pattersoni went extinct because they were so big. They were too large to burrow and were unable to outrun predators like many of the lither, hoofed mammals could.

P. pattersoni was named in honor of Brian Patterson, a paleontologist who worked in the region of its discovery back in the 1970s.

4 comments:

  1. i cant find any real pictures on phober pattersonis but i am doing a project and no one will belive me! please update some pictures!

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  2. please answer my last request!

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  3. I haven't been able to find any photographs of the fossils, but a near complete skeleton was uncovered in Venezuela in 2003. Before that we only had skull fragments. The published information is available in the September 19th, 2003 article of "Science."

    There is also a report at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/09/0922_030922_giantrodent.html

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