Thursday, July 5, 2012

Creature Feature: Giant Cloud Rat.

If reading about insular gigantism scared you, worry not. Not every giant animal on an island  is going to eat you. Here, let us show you:

From Cutest pic I could find.

OK, bad example. I know some people are terrified of rats. Still, the giant cloud rat - and cloud rats in general- are at least as fascinating as Darwin's finches. They're all native to the Philippines, just like giant crocodiles. The main difference is that, unlike crocs, giant cloud rats would make great plushies.

All cloud rats are leaf-eating, nocturnal rodents that spend most of their time in trees.  There are a total of six species of cloud rats that are in turn divided into two genera. The "giant" ones in question are the North and South Luzon cloud rats, both of the genus Phloeomys. Again, aren't they cute? No? Fine, rat-haters.

Also very cute!

The giant cloud rat is the largest type of cloud rat in the Philippine forests. It is also the largest species of rat in the entire world. We're talking a 7-pound rat with teeth an inch long. That's a rat that would give a cat a run for its money. Being so big also makes it good meat, of course, and Filipinos have indeed been known to eat them. (Rodents are whole food. Really.)

Despite being unique species, not much study has been done on cloud rats. The only reason I even know about them is because one scientist at the Field Museum is studying these weird insular rats. Only three zoos have any kind of cloud rat in their collections, so even that's not a good bet if you want to gawk at a live giant rat.

Want a giant cloud rat as a plush- I mean pet? They're rare, but in the exotic pet trade nonetheless. A few of them are reliable breeders, so you should be seeing more captive-bred specimens soon.  They are marketed as the replacement for the Gambian Pouched Rat, which, while also large, is less cuddly.  Cuteness and legislation are together on this one, plus the giant cloud rat actually needs to be researched. 

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