Kangaroo rat vs rattlesnake: Video shows rodent kicking attacker 'ninja-style'

The kangaroo rats have 'record-breaking reaction time'

Kangaroo rat defensive kicking of rattlesnake while jumping

In instances where kangaroo rats must face-off against rattlesnakes in battles of life or death, the rats often come out on top, new videos show.

The defensive tactics of the small rodents were captured in high-speed video by researchers at the University of California Riverside, and they explain how the creatures defend themselves from nighttime predators.

In one video, a rat can be seen waiting for a coiled rattlesnake to attack, before launching into a jumping “ninja-style” kick.

The speed and power of the rodent’s defence is effective, as the snake is propelled into the air and the rat has a chance to escape.

According to the researchers’ new observations, the behaviour is common and allows the seed-eating rats to survive in the wild.

“Kangaroo rats that responded quickly were frequently able to jump clear of the snake completely, leaving the serpent biting nothing but dust as the kangaroo rat rocketed seven to eight body lengths into the air,” said Rulon Clark, co-author and associate professor of biology at San Diego State University. “But in perhaps the most surprising finding of our research, kangaroo rats that did not react quickly enough to avoid the strike had another trick up their sleeves: they 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.”

The findings have been published in two papers in the journals Functional Ecology and Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Previously, researchers had been unable to explain how the rats got away from the dangerous predators, especially in situations where slower footage appeared to show them being bitten by the snakes.

To answer the question, researchers had to upgrade their equipment.

The new videos were shot with cameras with higher recording speeds and resolution, which “helped show in exquisite detail” that kangaroo rats have “record-breaking reaction time,” according to lead author and doctorate student Malachi Whitford.

The desert-dwelling rats, which can weigh up to 4.5oz, also have highly sensitive hearing, which can help them detect and prepare for predators, according to the researchers.

Kangaroo rats are typically found in dry regions of the western and southwestern US, according to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

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Their many natural predators include owls, snakes, bobcats, foxes, badgers and coyotes.

You can see more videos of the kangaroo rats here.

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