A new study has showed that the massive ancient rodents may have used their giant front teeth as a tool for digging as well as a weapon for defensive mechanism.
South America has once hosted the largest rodents of the world. The continent is best known as home to some of the smallest animals of the world, such as the smallest monkey on the Earth, called the pygmy marmoset, and the world’s smallest silky anteater.
According to the scientists, the Josephoartigasia monesi used its incisors in the similar way as the elephants and rhinos use their tusks.
Josephoartigasia monesi is a guinea-pig like mammal that is similar to the size of a buffalo.
The researchers were able to draw conclusions about the behavior of massive mammals after analyzing a newly uncovered fossil dating back to three million years ago. The researchers used CT scans and other advanced imaging techniques for measuring the physical abilities of the mammals’ two front teeth.
The numbers indicated that the rodent was able to chomp down with a force of 1,400 Newtons, almost similar to the force of a tiger. The mammal’s front teeth were able to withstand 4,165 Newtons, nearly thrice as much force.
In a press release, researcher Philip Cox, from the University of York, said, “We concluded that Josephoartigasia 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.”
The study detailing the analysis of Josephoartigasia and its front teeth was reported in the Journal of Anatomy.