© Velizar Simeonovski/The Field Museum

Superrare, coconut-eating rat discovered in rain forest

High in the rainforest canopy on the island of Vangunu in the Solomon Islands lives a giant, coconut-eating rat—at least according to the songs of the locals. But now, The New York Times reports, scientists have confirmed the rat’s existence thanks to a chance encounter with an injured specimen. In a paper published in the Journal of Mammalogy, the researchers describe the rodent as the first new mammal discovered in the islands in more than 80 years and list it as critically endangered because of its low population density and shrinking habitat caused by logging on Vangunu. The rats, which can reach lengths of 46 centimeters and bore through coconut shells to feed on the meat inside, are incredibly rare—researchers were only able to find the specimen after it was injured when a tree fell. Regrettably, the animal died shortly after being discovered.

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