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In the following sentence, the combination of の and に allows it to be interpreted in two ways:

この巨大なネズミは他の地域に生息する固有種に比べれば小柄。

この巨大なネズミは(他の地域)に生息する固有種に比べれば小柄。
Compared to the endemic species in other regions, these huge rodents are small in size.
この巨大なネズミは他の(地域に生息する固有種)に比べれば小柄。
Compared to other endemic species in the region, these huge rodents are small in size

This sentence is a little bit simplified from the original in here, but it should have the same general structure. Reading a bit more into the story, it seems like the second interpretation of the sentence is the correct interpretation.

My question is: Is there a rule for which way it should be interpreted? So, essentially, is this sentence ambiguous? And if it is, then is this just bad writing because it's a web novel, or do these kinds of sentences show up in polished literature?

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    Assuming the 2nd interpretation is actually correct as you say, I'd say it's bad writing simply because the ambiguity could have been entirely avoided by swapping the clause order: (同)地域に生息する他の固有種
    – Will
    May 22 at 10:52
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I also think, and hope, the first interpretation is correct. It would be terrible writing if the author meant it in the second way. As pointed out by Will, 地域に生息する他の固有種 would have made this meaning crystal clear.

Having read the subsequent part, though, I think I understand why you thought the second interpretation might be the case.

他の固有種が軒並み巨体なロンドヴィルでの生息を可能とするために雑食で

Here, the same word 固有種 is probably used to refer to endemic species in ロンドヴィル that are not rats. This rat has evolved to be omnivorous to survive in a habitat where it is surrounded by such huge animals. I think that’s what it means.

Having read the surrounding few paragraphs, I would still call this bad writing. Some of the sentences are really hard to understand, including the one I copied above. The part you asked about is not that bad.

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  • Thanks for the detailed answer. That sentence was exactly why I thought the sentence given might be parsed the second way, when initially I had parsed it the as the first.
    – Shurim
    May 22 at 15:50
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I think the first interpretation is correct even after taking the context into consideration, and this sentence doesn't seem ambiguous to me. See Will's comment.

From the text, the sizes of the species can be summarized as follows:

ロンドヴィルに生息するラット以外の固有種 > 他の地域に生息する固有種のラット > ロンドラット = ラオブルマウス > ラオロアマウス

A sentence like this can be ambiguous (see this discussion), but in this case, the simplest parsing strategy perfectly makes sense.

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  • Ok wow that really link really helped me clear some doubts I’ve had.
    – Shurim
    May 22 at 15:52

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