A kangaroo rat had to fight for its life from a hungry rattlesnake with a ninja-like move that will make Master Splinter proud.
Scientists were able to capture the action take place using high-speed cameras. In the video, the kangaroo rat launches into the air to evade a venomous rattlesnake, giving the predator a kick in the head before hopping away into safety.
Ninja Rat Caught On Video
The video was part of the research from the University of California Riverside, the San Diego State University, and the University of California Davis. The team placed several high-speed cameras to capture moments like this in a desert in Arizona where rodents often have to defend themselves against venomous vipers.
They used radio telemetry to track the hunting behaviors of rattlesnakes and then placed the cameras in locations that kangaroo rats frequent. According to the researchers, this is the first time the kangaroo rats use such maneuvers to defend themselves against the lightning-quick strikes of rattlesnakes.
"Both rattlesnakes and kangaroo rats are extreme athletes, with their maximum performance occurring during these interactions," explained Timothy Higham, an associate professor at the University of California Riverside and an author of the two papers. "This makes the system excellent for teasing apart the factors that might tip the scale in this arms race."
An Epic Nature Showdown
According to the study, rattlesnakes launch themselves from their hiding spot to their prey in less than 100 milliseconds. For comparison, a blink of an eye lasts for 150 milliseconds.
Thus, it took the researchers by surprise that kangaroo rats can respond to the attack and escape. The study revealed that kangaroo rats initiate jumps around 70 milliseconds, but some are up in the air within only 38 milliseconds.
The researchers also found the kangaroo rats that were not able to launch themselves fast enough to have a special move that could still help them evade the predator.
"[T]hey often were able to avoid being envenomated by reorienting themselves in mid-air and using their massive haunches and feet to kick the snakes away, ninja-style," shared Rulon Clark, an associate professor at the San Diego State University and an author of the study.
The study solves the mystery of how kangaroo rats often emerge from an encounter with rattlesnakes unscathed. Researchers even tested if kangaroo rats were immune to snake venom because they cannot explain why the critters can just walk away from the attack.
Watch a kangaroo rat dropkick a rattlesnake below.