Recently, both the internet and newspapers have been filled with stories of people finding supposed ‘giant’ rats in their homes and businesses. Stories such as this one are pretty common, with many people speculating that a new breed of rodent is one the rise.
Due to all this commotion around giant rats, we thought now would be a good time to shed some light on the situation and answer the question: Do giant rats exist?
When people talk about giant rats, they are actually talking about urban rats. Urban rats, unsurprisingly refer to rats living in urban environments such as cities and towns. Compared to rats found in rural areas (parkland rats), urban rats tend to be a lot bigger in size.
A study conducted in Baltimore USA between 1984 and 1986 saw 850 rats captured, 167 caught in parklands and 683 were collected in urban areas. The urban rats were significantly heavier than those captured in parklands and the males were much larger than the females in both habitats.
How Can Urban Rats Get So Big?
According to the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), diet is key to larger rats. Rats living in urban areas such as large towns and cities have unlimited access to food. This results in a higher reproduction rate and a longer life span.
Rats living in urban environments tend to grow more rapidly than those in rural areas, which has an increasing effect on their survival. Urban rats continue to gain weight as they age, which allows them to reach a higher body mass.
One of the main contributors to an increase in larger sized rats is a combination of food and milder weather. Urban areas are filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants, all of which provide a high supply of food not only within these premises but also the food they dispose of at the end of the day.
During the colder seasons, the growth rate of urban rats is still quite high. This is mainly down to food waste. The majority of the food wasted in urban areas are those high and sugars and fats. This is the main, stable, source of food for urban rats throughout the year, and the colder weather slows down the rate of decay. This allows said food to be available for longer, providing rodents with a steady flow of feed which is easily, and constantly accessible.
Do Giant Rats Exist?
In a way, yes, but this is not a new breed of rodent. Essentially what you have is a species of rat which come in a range of different sizes – just like humans. For example, you could have a fully grown adult who is only 5ft whilst another could be well over 6ft. Giant rats are simply rats at the extreme end of the size spectrum, rather than a new breed entirely.
To add to this, the countless photos online of giant urban rats are all just an illusion. Using the age old trick of perspective, you can easily take a photo of rat and make it look massive.
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