What appears to be a rat washing itself down in Peru. Picture: Jose Correa / Caters News.
What appears to be a rat washing itself down in Peru. Picture: Jose Correa / Caters News.

The truth about that rat taking a shower

THE rat taking a shower, the one from Peru covered in foaming soap and lathering itself in a manner uncannily like a human, had everyone talking.

There were many theories around the incredible video which showed the rodent perfectly balanced on its hind legs as it rubbed down its coat.

However, we all may have been trying to work the puzzle the wrong way. We should not have questioned how a rat was persuaded to have a shower. Rather, we should have asked was the creature a rat at all.

We were fooled by the soap when we should have been scratching our heads about the legs.

The clue is that the beast is standing upright. It's not normal behaviour for a rat. But it is far more usual for a pacarana, a brown rodent found in - surprise, surprise - Peru.

It’s a rodent, but is it even a rat? Peru. Picture: Jose Correa / Caters News.
It’s a rodent, but is it even a rat? Peru. Picture: Jose Correa / Caters News.

"With the large head size, bipedal position, flexible forelimbs, short stiff tail, and consistent coat colour ... this animal fits the ID of a pacarana," Dallas Krentzel, an evolutionary biologist specialising in rodents at the University of Chicago told Newsweek.

The pacarana is a rare rodent found in parts of Peru, Brazil and Colombian. Weighing on average about 15kg it's like a smaller Latin American Wombat. It's visually similar too, but not a relation, of another more numerous South American rodent called the paca.

"Both pacas and pacaranas are some of my favourite species for how weird they are, so I took notice of this post today," said Mr Krentzel who pointed to many videos which show pacaranas in upright stances on their back legs.

Pacaranas are larger than rates and are visually similar to the paca (above) but with plain fur. Picture: Michelle Etheridge
Pacaranas are larger than rates and are visually similar to the paca (above) but with plain fur. Picture: Michelle Etheridge

It was adept at using its fore legs due to foraging and food processing.

How large the rodent is in the video is unclear as there is nothing in the shots to compare its size too. As such it could easily be a 70cm long pacarana which is significnatly larger than a rat. It also seems to lack the rat's distinctive tail.

He said that, aside from a pacarana, no other creature fits the "shower rat" bill.

Toumas Aivelo, a researcher in urban rat biology at the University of Helsinki concurred with Mr Krentzel and said the term "rat" was often overused.

"In English, rat is used for a number of different rodents, but scientifically pacaranas are more closely related to capybaras and guinea pigs than true rats such as the black rat," he told the Independent.

"Also, pacaranas are apparently easy to catch so that could explain why it has ended up as the victim of a YouTube video."

The video was uploaded by electronic DJ Jose Correa on Sunday and has now been watched more than seven million times.

Mr Correa, 36, claimed he was about to take a shower when he spotted the creature on Saturday morning.

"He was just like a human, I've never seen anything like it," he said. "It went on for about 30 seconds, and then he ran off. I think he just wanted to give himself a good clean."

However, both researchers said lathering was not normal rodent behaviour and the poor fella was probably trying to rid itself of the suds that it had somehow acquired.

"Soap is definitely unnatural for rodents," Mr Aivelo said.

Pacaranas have a layer on their fur which helps them stay clean while rummaging through the earth with no need for a squirt of Pantene.

"I think the rodent is trying to clean off the soap with normal, though a bit panicky, cleaning movements," he said.

"Panicky in a sense that it's covered all over with the soap and it can't easily get rid of it."



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