The world's largest rats

The world's largest rats
PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

Forget those silly photos of "huge" rats from playgrounds in the UK. These are the real rodents of unusual size

If you had to list the world's most vilified animals, rats would definitely make the cut - especially giant ones.

They are most commonly described as harbingers of disease that scuttle in swarms around our cities under cover of darkness.

The best known species are the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the slightly smaller black rat (Rattus rattus), both of which live on every continent bar Antarctica.

Our worst nightmares seem to be realised every few months when frightening photos of supersized rats are splashed across the media. But in truth, cities are not the best places to look for the world's biggest rats.

"There is absolutely no evidence that brown rats found in the UK are growing bigger," explains Dougie Clarke from the University of Huddersfield, UK.

Clarke is a leading expert on super rats. That does not mean giant ones big enough to train teenage mutant turtles to become ninjas, but rats that have become resistant to the poisons used by pest controllers.

"In our study that surveyed over a hundred brown rats from all over the UK, the maximum body length of fully-grown rodenticide 'super rats' was 26 cm (10.3 inches) with a tail length of 25 cm (9.8 inches)," says Clarke. "So they are no different than what is expected for brown rats."

"Any reports in the media that they are growing bigger are either photo trickery by holding the animal at arm's length, or another species of escaped pet rat," he adds.

For example, the behemoth discovered dead next to a playground in Hackney, London in March 2016 was said to be as big as the children that played there. Thanks to forced perspective, where subjects closer to the camera appear larger than those further away, the rat did look enormous.

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