Corey WilsonFriday,9 October 2015

I’m tired of reading the same old shit. Planned Parenthood is not evil; your public school cannot put up prayer boxes; stop publicizing the mass murderer instead of the victims. So today, we’re going to talk about rats. Plague rats. Kidding; that would be just as bad as the shit they’re writing on Fox this week. This article is about science, and how fucking cool science is.

We often hear people say that there could be millions of bizarre creatures lurking in the deepest depths of our largest oceans—creatures that we’d be hard pressed to fit into a genus, or perhaps even a kingdom (looking at you coral).

At the same time, biologists discover a new species of insects in the Amazon Rainforest every three days. Weird insects, like the cartwheeling spider—take a look at this list of insects found just in 2015.

But creatures at the bottom of the ocean, and insects tucked away in the heart of the rainforest are like aliens; those are two completely separate worlds. What about mammals? What about a species that we can imagine tangibly?

Well, just a few days ago scientists discovered the Hog-Nosed Shrew Rat. Sure, maybe doesn’t sound as exciting as the cartwheeling spider (or as terrifying), but it’s still cool. I’m not going to put “exciting” in quotations like Sky News did because I’m not a jerk—except for right there because I had to in order to be grammatically… any way the point is that this rat is still cool as hell.

For our many Australian readers, you can think of the Hog-Nose as a type of rat-bandicoot. Interestingly, I thought Crash Bandicoot was a fictional character, but you learn something new every day.

The most interesting part is not only it’s extraordinary diversity of physical traits, but that scientists have placed the rat into an entirely different genus. For those of you who know what a genus is, feel free to skip the next paragraph. For those of you who failed high school science, but know how to Google (raises hand), you may also skip the next paragraph—I’ll see you when you get back. For the rest of you lazy louts, let me explain.

All organisms are divided into taxonomical orders. There’s the Domain, the Kingdom (Animal Kingdom or Plant Kingdom), the Phylum, the Class, the Order (Primates), the Family, the Genus, and the Species.

What you need to understand is that there has to be a pretty broad gap in similarity to classify one rat as a different genus. To put it into perspective, Neanderthals, Humans, and Java Man are all of the same genus. Neanderthals, as you may know, look incredibly different from humans and went extinct approximately 45,000 years ago. Java Man? His fossils are estimated to be between 700,000 and 1,000,000 years old.

It should be clear that the dissimilarities between rats and the Hog-Nosed Shrew Rat are enormous. Perhaps the coolest thing to take away from this is that hundreds of new genera have been found in the last two decades, with many more likely to be found.

So there’s something cool you can tell your date (because she’d be totally into that—seriously). You can log off, and not read anymore news because why would you do that? It’s just the same bullshit it always is. Shut up about the god damns schools, Starns.

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Image Credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans on Flickr

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