London: The biggest rodent to ever stalk the Earth lived about three million years ago in what is now South Africa and used its large front teeth the way today's elephants use their tusks, shows a new study.
The bull-size creature called Josephoartegasia monesi used its incisors for digging the ground for food, even for fending off predators with the sturdy teeth.
An amateur paleontologist first unearthed the skull of this extinct rodent from a boulder on a beach in Uruguay.
"Monesi must have used its incisors for activities other than biting, such as digging in the ground for food, or defending itself from predators. This is very similar to how a modern-day elephant uses its tusks," said Philip Cox, archaeologist at Hull York Medical School in England.
The team estimated the rodent could produce a bite force equivalent to that of a tiger.
The well-preserved skull was about 20 inches long, giving an indication that the creature could grow up to 1,000 kg.
Past studies had suggested that ancient rodents had fairly weak chewing muscles and small grinding teeth.
The findings were published in the Journal of Anatomy.