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Scientists have discovered why Speedy Gonzales is always fast

The kangaroo rat, Dipodomys deserti, may prove that the cartoon’s versatility is not so far off from reality.

We can all agree on one thing, walking on sand requires more work and energy than on other surfaces. And this isn’t unique to humans. But why can the Looney Tunes cartoon, Speedy Gonzales, run super-fast all the time across all the different terrains he encounters?

And you’re probably thinking, what a silly question, he is a cartoon!

The truth is a very similar-looking animal to Speedy Gonzales in real life, the kangaroo rat, Dipodomys deserti, may prove that the cartoon’s versatility is not so far off from reality.

Dipodomys deserti

Joseph Hall and David Lin at the Washington State University, along with Craig McGowan at the University of Idaho decided to study how the kangaroo rat, a hoping animal, reacts to different types of grounds.

Comparing the animals’ hopping styles on solid and sandy surfaces, they found no significant difference in the amount of time the animals’ feet were in contact with the ground or the distance covered during each hop. They also found no significant difference in the rat’s speed and acceleration between the two different surfaces, although the animals were more crouched when hopping on sand.

These little animals are equally adept at moving across rocky and sandy terrains, both of which exist in their natural desert habitat.

Even though the environment has induced changes in the running styles of some animals, it seems that kangaroo rats have adapted so that changes in the surface they hop around on doesn’t affect their speed. They maintain very similar physical movements regardless of the firmness of the surface that they are moving over, suggesting that they are finely tuned to their environment.

And even though Speedy Gonzales is a runner and kangaroo rats hop, the discovery that kangaroo rats are perfectly tuned to move on hard and soft surfaces could hold the answer to Speedy’s super-fast reputation.

See the paper here or download the PDF →

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