High-Speed Cameras Show 'Ninja' Kangaroo Rats Evading Rattlesnake Attacks
Rats get a hard time from us humans. We catch them in traps, associate them with disease and jump on chairs and scream when we see them.
We dislike them so much that we even use their name as an insult (though to be fair we also use dog as an insult, and we all bloody love them).
But a certain species of rat has earned itself some kudos after high-speed cameras caught them displaying impressive agility and evasive skills to evade rattlesnake attacks.
Kangaroo rats have one hell of a spring on them, as you may have guessed, but the true extent of their incredible evasive manoeuvres have been caught on camera - reportedly for the first time - by US scientists in Sanoran Desert, Yuma, Arizona.
In the footage, the rats can be seen minding their own business, seemingly oblivious to the serpents lurking right next to them (it's night time). As the rattlesnakes lunge in for the kill, it seems certain that death awaits, but miraculously, the rats are able to spring up in the air and kick the snakes in the neck (that's if snakes have necks.. they're kind of one big neck really) before making good their escape.
Their amazing evasion techniques have earned them the nickname 'ninja rats', which is obviously pretty cool, but their moves are even more impressive when you consider the speed at which they are executed.
The footage was filmed using high-speed cameras, operating at 500 frames per second, and we're only able to appreciate their nimbleness because the video is slowed down by 30 times. For some context, the little ninjas can react in just 70 milliseconds, while the average human blink takes about 150 milliseconds - so blink and you could miss it, twice.
The study was carried out in conjunction between the University of California-Riverside, San Diego State University and UC Davis, and has been published in the journal Functional Ecology and the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.
The team of scientists used trackers to trace the rattlesnakes and then set up the high speed cameras as the predators they lay poised, ready to strike at passing kangaroo rats.
University of California-Riverside associate professor, Timothy Higham, said the footage suggested the rats had evolved techniques to avoid being killed.
According to ITV, he said: "These lightning-fast and powerful manoeuvres, especially when executed in nature, tell us about the effective strategies for escaping high-performing predators.
"Those that are successful at evading the strike will suggest ways in which the kangaroo rat might be evolving in response to the intricacies of the predatory movements."
Featured Image Credit: Ninja Rat