See a kangaroo rat ninja-kick a rattlesnake in dramatic slo-mo video

Scientists capture kangaroo rats in action evading high-speed rattlesnake attacks, and it's super startling.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser

If you like action movies, you'll love the videos researchers took of athletic kangaroo rats evading rattlesnake strikes. It looks like a cross between parkour and ninjutsu. The rats are able to jump, kick and twist their way out of danger.

A student-led team from the University of California at Riverside, San Diego State University and the University of California at Davis set up high-speed cameras to see how North American desert-dwelling kangaroo rats deal with rattlesnake attacks. The slow-motion footage is startling. 

"The resultant videos provide the first ever detailed look at the maneuvers that kangaroo rats use to defend themselves against a deadly predator," the University of California Riverside says.

The rats have long hind feet reminiscent of kangaroos. Those tootsies come in handy for kicking rattlesnakes and elevating the rats away from strikes with impressive jumps.   

The team discovered that while rattlesnakes could strike and reach a rat in under 100 milliseconds, the rats had typical reactions times of around 70 milliseconds. That small margin is enough to escape becoming dinner. 

The researchers also found that some rats that weren't fast enough were still able to avoid snakes by reorienting mid-jump and kicking the reptiles. San Diego State University biology professor Rulon Clark describes this as "ninja-style."

The researchers published papers on their findings on Wednesday in the journals Functional Ecology and the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society

For more on these feisty rodents, you can check out the group's NinjaRat website.

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