Dog-sized giant rats once roamed our planet

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Dog-Sized Giant Rats Once Roamed Our Planet

Fossils of the largest known rats ever in existence have been discovered on the island nation of East Timor.

Researchers from the Australian National University found seven species of ancient rats, one of which was roughly 10 times the size of those living today.

Dr. Julien Louys noted, "They are what you would call mega-fauna. The biggest one is about five kilos, the size of a small dog. Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo."

The fossils were uncovered as part of a project tracking human progression across Southeast Asia in order to gauge humanity's impact on ecosystems.

The first evidence of humans in East Timor dates back some 46,000 years.

Those humans would have coexisted with the giant rats until about a thousand years ago.

But coexistence isn't the same as harmony—the humans ate the rats; evidenced by cuts and burn marks on their ancient bones.

The team of scientists is working to discover exactly what led to the rats' extinction.

Ultimately, researchers say all this information about rats and humans could prove useful to present-day attempts at environment preservation.

See how rats are trained to find land mines:
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NTP: Training rats to sniff out land mines
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Dog-sized giant rats once roamed our planet
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A rat searches for land mines and unexploded ordnance during a training session on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: Handlers train rats to detect different types of mines and unexploded ordnance on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasibility of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A handler puts a leash on a mine detection rat before a training session on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A rat searches for land mines and unexploded ordnance during a training session on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A rat climbs on a handler's leg after finishing the morning's training on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A mine detection rat is given banana as a reward after successfully detecting a mine on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasibility of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A rat searches for land mines and unexploded ordnance during a training session on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasibility of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A small leash is attached to a mine detection rat before a training session on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A mine detection rat is given banana as a reward after successfully identifying an inactive mine on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A deactivated, Chinese-made, anti-personnel mine is one of many types used to train the rats on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A handler carries a mine detection rat to a cool, shaded area after finishing training on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: Tape measures are used to identify where the rat has indicated during a training session on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasibility of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A handler brings a mine detection rat to a shaded area after a training session on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasibility of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A handler carries a rat to an enclosure on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A mine detection rat looks out of it's cage before training begins on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasibility of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A rat searches for land mines and unexploded ordnance during a training session on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasability of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA - JULY 02: A mine detection rat searches as its handler looks on on July 2, 2015 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC) working with the Belgian NGO APOPO has recently begun testing the feasibility of using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance in one of the most bombed and mined countries in the world. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images)
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