Rats Pretending to Be a Snake TO Avoid Predators

A writhing, twisting, snake scurrying on over 30 legs might not sound like your idea of fun, but this strange beast has millions of eyes glued to it this week. In a video that was posted to Twitter on Monday and has since gone viral, a mysterious mass resembling a furry snake race across a brick floor, occasionally stopping to look around before continuing on its hurried way. Scary as it looks, it isn’t what Twitter suggests it is. The truth is, oddly, kind of sweet. On closer inspection, the furry snake in the video looks more like a chain of individual furry animals, which is less freaky but still pretty weird. Since Monday, the video has been viewed over 4.75 million times. The caption, written by Twitter user cainebraswell, who reposted the video from sonofselassie, describes the phenomenon as “Rats pretending to be a snake to avoid predators.”Such a mimicking behaviour would be impressive, but it’s probably not what’s going on, animal behaviour researchers say. What’s happening in the video may actually be a whole lot more interesting than that.Dr. Louise Gentle, a lecturer in wildlife conservation at Nottingham Trent University, says the animals in the video are most likely not mimicking a snake.“I doubt very much whether this is true ‘Rats pretending to be a snake to avoid predators,’” Gentle said.Dr. Jacqueline Boyd, also an animal scientist, agrees with Gentle’s assessment.“It’s unlikely they are pretending to be a snake…. that’s the human interpretation,” Boyd said. First off, contrary to the tweet’s caption, this chain of small mammals is almost certainly a mother shrew with her offspring. Even though the low-quality video makes it difficult to discern the details of the individual animals, the fact that they’re travelling in a chain tells the tale. These animals are engaging in a family behaviour called a “caravan,” which scientists have extensively observed in shrews. In a caravan, each juvenile shrew bites the sturdy base of the tail of the shrew in front of them, with the mother at the front.