What a robotic squirrel can teach us about rattlesnakes

Well, now we’ve seen it all: Scientists from UC Davis and San Diego State University have released a video of a venomous rattlesnake attacking a robotic squirrel.

And we thought robojelly, the robotic jellyfish was weird.

The video was made by Rulon Clark, a biology professor at San Diego State who is trying to determine how squirrels and rattlesnakes communicate in the wild.

When a squirrel thinks a rattlesnake is nearby, rather than running away, it will raise its tail, heat it up, and wag it. Scientists call this “flagging behavior.”

It seems that the rattlesnake is less likely to strike a squirrel that is exhibiting flagging behavior, but scientists are not entirely sure why.

One hypothesis: The flagging behavior may indicate what Clark calls “squirrel vigilence, or squirrel awareness,” which might tell the snake that it no longer has the element of surprise on its side. But is it the heating of the tail that the snake is responding to, or the back and forth movement? Or is there something else going on?

READ MORE:  What a robotic squirrel can teach us about rattlesnakes – latimes.com.