The truth behind the viral video of a rat taking a shower

Jose Correa/YouTube screengrab

A short video of a rat taking a shower emerged last week and understandably went very viral, very fast.

But according to experts it may not actually be a rat - and, even worse, it wasn't actually taking a shower.

Speaking to indy100, Toumas Aivelo, a researcher in urban rat biology at the University of Helsinki in Finland, pointed to an article published in Newsweek on Monday in which biologist Dallas Krentzel said the rodent is likely to be a pacarana, not a rat.

Mr Aivelo said:

I think it is a sensible identification based on the bipedal posture of the rodent.

In English, rats are used routinely for a number of different rodents, but scientifically pacaranas are more closely related to capybaras and guinea pigs than "true rats" such as Norwegian rat or black rat.

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

A pacarana pictured in Peru. Picture:Picture: A pacarana pictured in Peru

In the clip, the rodent appeared to be covered in soap and was stood on its hind legs in a tub. It scrubs its snout, armpits, head, back and body - strangely mimicking human motions.

Many viewers asked if the rat may have been in any kind of pain during the clip.

Mr Aivelo, who studied rodents as part of his postdoctoral research in Switzerland, said it doesn’t look like the rodent is in pain as such, but “rather cleaning itself with some urgency".

He said rodents are not accustomed to soap and that it wouldn't make those movements unless there was something it really wanted to get rid of. The researcher added:

Soap is definitely unnatural for rodents.

Pacaranas, for example, are burrowing rodents which need the lipid layer on their furs to protect from dirt or moisture they encounter.

It helps to keep the fur more easily cleaned.

Thus, getting covered with soap could actually mean that the rodent gets more dirty.

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

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

So it seems that the rodent wasn't so much cleaning himself with soap as he was desperately trying to remove it.

The video was reportedly shot in Peru and was shared by YouTube user Jose Correa on Sunday. TitledRat taking a shower​, it has so far garnered over 800,000 views and reposts on Facebook raked in over 7 million views.

In a interview with Newsweek, Mr Krentzel, who studies rodent diversity at the University of Chicago, said the animal in the video is bigger than a rat and has a larger face. Unlike rats, the pacarana also doesn’t have a long tail.

He added that it makes sense the rodent could mimic human movements because "it needs that forelimb mobility for foraging and food processing."

He also said that the fact the video was filmed in Peru is more evidence it's a pacarana - as the rodent's are indigenous to that area.

indy100 has contacted the YouTube user who posted the video.

HT IFL Science

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