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5

FRIDAY

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The biggest rats in Washington dwell in our imaginations, not our alleys. They feed on our exaggerations, not our trash. They get fatter and scarier every time we tell their story. But for scientists and nature lovers who want to see the world’s most impressive vermin in real life, there’s only one place to go on rat safari: Cuba. Forget the cigars. Forget the baseball. According to scientists, Cuba offers some top-notch giant rats. The island nation is home not only to Fidel Castro but also to the legendary solenodon: a swarthy, ratlike mammal with a tubular nose, a scaly tail, and a plump body. Solenodons have been around since the age of dinosaurs; even so, aspects of their lifestyle remain shrouded in mystery. For example, to this day, little is known about their reproductive habits. My guess: It probably starts with a few too many mojitos. Laboratory of Genomic Diversity research scientist Alfred L. Roca presents “Solenodons: West Indian Survivors From the Age of Dinosaurs” at noon at the National Museum of Natural History’s Baird Auditorium, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Felix Gillette)