The rodents room 30 milliseconds faster than a rattlesnake's strike—and many live come see another day.

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Using high-speed cameras, scientists caught remarkable clip of kangaroo rats kicking rattlesnakes in mid-air.

For a furry pipsqueak in the deserts external of Yuma, Arizona, recognize dinner method tiptoeing through a minefield of spring-loaded death.

Sidewinder rattlesnakes sit in the sands, still together stone—just wait for among their favorite prey, the kangaroo rat, to wander as well close.

But according to a pair of new studies, kangaroo rats space not as helpless together we thought. Indeed, a collection of slow-motion videos have revealed that the rodents have the right to detect your predators’ strikes in ~ fractions of a second, leaping the end of harm’s method with their powerful hind legs.

And sometimes, even when a snake’s attack hits the mark, kangaroo rats deserve to karate-kick the serpent away before it can inject any kind of venom—a feat every the more miraculous as soon as it’s excellent while spinning in midair prefer a fuzzy tiny ninja. (Read how some snake gang up to hunt prey.)

That’s all thanks to the kangaroo rat’s well-developed feeling of balance, states Rulon Clark, a behavior ecologist at mountain Diego State college and an elderly author ~ above both studies.

And unlike numerous other food species, Clark claims the kangaroo rats’ jumps are not merely random startling reflexes.

“They’re facility and almost graceful movements,” the says, a “ballet that jumping and twisting and also kicking.”

Clark and his team have been studying this actions for years, yet new, slow-motion camera technology has allowed them to now reveal intricacies that the desert duels never seen before.

Alive and kicking

What’s even an ext remarkable is how often the rattlesnakes go home hungry.

After numerous nights spent in the desert, Clark and colleagues videotaped 32 strikes indigenous 13 snakes. Surprisingly, the team showed that the reptiles in reality bit into the rats on less than fifty percent of their assaults (15), and also of those, simply seven strikes resulted in their deploying venom and getting a meal. In the various other eight instances, the kangaroo rats leapt and kicked their means to freedom.

Even much more often, the kangaroo rats jumped the end of the means of a strike before getting bitten (11), or the snake misjudged the rodent’s distance and missed altogether (6), follow to the current studies, released in the organic Journal of the Linnean culture and in the journal functional Ecology.

The researchers additionally learned the the speed of a sidewinder’s attack did no correlate v success. That is, that was an ext important for the snakes to be precise than fast—and even then, the kangaroo rats can negate the predator’s initiatives with a swift foot to the face.

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“When snake strike, it’s favor a bullet coming out of a gun,” states Bree Putman, who was not associated in the brand-new studies but has studied a similar dynamic between California ground squirrels and Pacific rattlesnakes. “They can’t really change the trajectory the the strike once they’ve initiated it.”

Plenty of prey varieties have arisen ways come sidestep or jump out of a snake’s trajectory, states Putman, who is at this time a postdoctoral research other at university of California, Los Angeles, and also the Natural background Museum of Los Angeles County.