Spiny rat species discovered on Indonesian island

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Halmahera island
This is a bird’s eye view of Halmahera island. The water looks so clear, I almost want to go in for a dip! Oh, did I just see a Spiny Boki Mekot Rat running along the coast?

When I think of rats, I picture yellow-toothed furballs crawling out of city sewers to poke their snouts in the trash. Yuck! Far beyond the city’s alleyways, however, in the dense green forests, scurry wild rodents with a decidedly less sinister reputation. In one of these lush and misty locales… on the Indonesian island of Halmahera… a newly discovered species has emerged that could potentially save the environment!

Home to a diverse amount of species, Halmahera island happens to be one of the birthplaces of the theory of evolution. Trekking through this rich and storied island, researchers from the University of Copenhagen decided to search for a new organism. They scouted a number of locations to lure animals out with treats of roasted coconut and peanut butter, strategically placing the bait around branches and burrow entrances. Naturally, a number of animals were unable to resist the free food (heck, even I can’t say no), including an unknown rodent!

The mysterious creature had coarse brownish hair along its back and white fur covering a bulging belly. Additionally, its pink fleshy tail had an unfamiliar, yet distinct white tip. After studying the creature’s DNA, the team realized they found an undiscovered species of rat! Since the animal lurked in the mountainous area of Boki Mekot, it was given the name Halmaheramys bokimekot. However, that’s way too fancy for my liking, so I’m going to use his other name: the Spiny Boki Mekot Rat!

While this discovery may particularly excite rat enthusiasts, researcher Kristofer Helgen of the Smithsonian Institution explains the Spiny Boki Mekot Rat is important for another reason. “This discovery shows how much of the richness of life is left to discover – especially in the Indonesian archipelago,” he says. However, uncovering them will be extremely difficult if people don’t stop hurting the environment. “Finding and documenting them is a task made urgent by huge environmental threats, especially logging and mining.”

Featured image courtesy of the University of Copenhagen. Image of Halmahera island courtesy of Muhammad ECTOR Prasetyo on Wikipedia.