Kangaroo Rat and Rattlesnake Fight It Out

  • And who will win?

This new footage shows that kangaroo rats, although cute, are able to foil snake attacks through a series of impressive moves.

The research was done through a student led team from UC Riverside at San Diego State University. They filmed the encounters between the animals with high-speed cameras.

The videos showed that the rattlesnakes could attack the rat in only 100 milliseconds. It takes the human eye 150 milliseconds to blink. 

Even so, researchers reported that only half of the 32 snake attacking rats incidents ended with snakebites. The kangaroo rat has a 70 millisecond reaction time and therefore does have a chance to get away.

“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 7-8 body lengths into the air,” Rulon Clark, an associate professor of biology at San Diego State University and a co-author on both research papers, said. “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.”  

Kangaroo rats have sensitive hearing, thus allowing them to pick up low-frequency sounds like a potential threat. Findings in two papers present details about the behaviors and biomechanics of both kangaroo rats and rattlesnakes.

There have also been fascinating videos posted to a website called NinjaRat.org. A student who was the lead author to one of the papers, Grace Freymiller, says she hopes the research and videos teach people more about what life is really like in the desert.

“We just want people to see that they’re not necessarily lifeless barren habitats,” she said. “They’re worth protecting, they’re worth appreciating. They’re home to these amazing animals doing things beyond what we could ever imagine.”