The predator rats are a group of carnivorous rodents from Dougal Dixon's After Man. They evolved from rats, hence their names. After the Age of Man, the extinction of most carnivorans gave rats a chance to take over their niches. In the distant future, they diversified, having to take the place of many carnivorans - cheetahs, wildcats, wolves, foxes, weasels, bears, and even pinnipeds - and evolved a similar form, although they have retained primitive features, like a long hairless tail. They have become Earth's principal carnivorous mammals.
History of Predator RatsIn the mammal world the predators were traditionally carnivorans - specialized meat-eating placental mammals with teeth modified for stabbing, killing and tearing flesh. Their legs were designed for leaping and producing a turn of speed that could quickly bring their chosen prey within killing distance. Wolves, lions, saber-toothed cats, stoats - these were the creatures that fed on the docile herbivores and kept their numbers in check both during and before the rise of humanity. However, being very specialized, these species tended not to have a great lifespan. They were so sensitive to changes in the nature and the populations of their prey that the average life of a carnivoran genus was only 6.5 million years. They reached their acme just before the age of human rule, but have since decreased in importance and are now almost extinct except for a number of aberrant and specialized forms found in the coniferous forests of the far north and in the South American island continent.
The place of most of the carnivorans, as the principal mammal predators, is now occupied by a variety of mammal groups in different parts of the world. In temperate regions the descendants of particular rodents occupy this niche.When the carnivorans were at their peak, the rodents, particularly the rats, began to acquire a taste for meat and animal waste. The spread of humankind to all parts of the world encouraged their proliferation and after humanity's demise they continued to flourish in the refuse created by the disruption and decay of human civilization. It is this adaptability that has ensured their survival.
Despite the specialized nature of their teeth, rats were able to live on a wide range of foods. At the front of their mouths they had two sharp gnawing incisors, which continued to grow throughout life to compensate for wear and which were separated by a gap from the back teeth. These were equipped with flat surfaces for grinding vegetable matter. This is very different from the typical carnivore dentition, which had cutting incisors at the front followed by a pair of stabbing canines and a row of shearing teeth at the back.As the rats expanded to occupy the niches left by the dwindling carnivorans their teeth evolved to fulfil their new role. The gnawing incisors developed long, stabbing points and were equipped with blades that could cut into and grip their prey. The gap between the incisors and the back teeth became smaller and the grinding molars became shearing teeth that worked with a scissor action. To make the dentition effective the jaw articulation changed from a rotary grinding motion into a more powerful up-and-down action. This dentition was crucial in the development of the predator rats and allowed them to radiate into the numerous forms and varieties seen throughout the Posthomic world today.
Species of Predator RatsThe Falanx (Amphimorphodus cynomorphus), a very gray wolf-like predator rat that hunts grazing and browsing prey of the temperate forests and plains of Europe, Asia and North America in packs. The evolution of this form involved the modification of the limbs from the fairly generalized scampering legs of the rat to very sophisticated running organs with small, thickly padded feet, and long shanks powered by strong muscles and tendons. The falanx is one of the largest members of the predator rats. Although superficially doglike in form, its rat ancestry is quite unmistakable.
The Rapide (Amphimorphodus longipes)
The Temperate Ravene (Vulpemys ferox)
The Polar Ravene (Vulpemys albulus)
The Janiset (Viverinus brevipes)
The Bardelot (Smilomys atrox)