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Fossil site on Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Brazil
Fossil site on Fernando de Noronha,
off the coast of Brazil

Noronhomys vespuccii, Vespucci's rodent, was a rat from the islands of Fernando de Noronha off northeastern Brazil. Numerous but fragmentary fossil remains of the extinct species, of uncertain but probably Holocene age, were discovered in 1973 and described in 1999. N. vespuccii was larger than the black rat (Rattus rattus), with high-crowned molars and several ridges on the skull that anchored the chewing muscles. A member of the family Cricetidae and subfamily Sigmodontinae, it shared several distinctive characters with the tribe Oryzomyini. Its close relatives, including Holochilus and Lundomys, are adapted to a semiaquatic lifestyle, spending much of their time in the water, but features of the Noronhomys bones suggest that it lost its semiaquatic lifestyle after arrival at its remote island. Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci may have seen it on a visit to Fernando de Noronha in 1503. (Full article...)

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Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe
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