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This is...Deadly 360, the show that pits three
of the world's deadliest predators against their prey,
examining both their hunting strategies
and their escape tactics from every angle.
By delving beneath the fur and feathers,
we find out why a hunt succeeds...
and why they sometimes fail.
One thing's certain - prey animals are anything but sitting ducks.
Their defensive strategies keep them alive...
..and push predators to the limits.
Prepare for Deadly 360.
This is Deadly 360 mission control,
where all of today's action and analysis takes place.
From here, we have access to some of the most enthralling hunts
ever caught on camera.
I've recreated three of the most exciting
and analysed them from different angles and perspectives
in true 360-degree style.
The predators we're looking at have to find and catch food
or they just won't make it.
In the wild world, simply managing to survive
is the greatest challenge of all.
I present to you...the snakes.
In today's deadly line-up, we'll witness the bone-crushing power
of one of the world's largest snakes - the African rock python.
We'll uncover the banded sand snake's remarkable method
for sneaking up on prey
and we'll get right in the firing line of the highly venomous
They look invincible, but there's a continual arms race going on
in nature which ensures that prey animals are always evolving
spectacular ways of taking care of themselves.
Today's defenders include a heavily armoured scorpion
with a few deadly weapons of its own, this gutsy little striped mouse,
who likes to make a quick getaway
and a super-charged springbok with some bounding moves.
So, I've introduced you to all of our contenders.
Now it's time to meet our first deadly duo going head to head.
For the predators, it's the African puff adder,
a small but sharp-shooting serpent.
And up against it is this -
a striped mouse.
It may be tiny, but it's quick, agile and hard to catch.
But which animal has the edge in the race for life?
It's time to go Deadly 360.
We start by taking a look at the critical moment in the hunt.
The puff adder is poised, ready to unleash.
Does the mouse realise it's in danger?
Has it already sensed something's wrong?
The snake will only get one shot.
It looks like the prey is in serious trouble,
but how did it get there and is there any chance it might survive?
To answer these questions, we'll wind back to the start of the hunt,
break down the action
and find out what happens in the lead up to the strike.
First, where are we?
This hunt takes place in South Africa,
not far from Cape Town, in an area called the fynbos.
It's rocky, mountainous terrain, with lots of plants and shrubs,
so plenty of hiding places.
And it's summer, which means hot, dry conditions. But who will this favour?
So, we've set the scene.
But how do these animals operate in this environment
and what attributes do they have
that might tip the balance in their favour?
Let's start with the puff adder.
It's a member of the viper family and, like all vipers,
equipped with toxic venom delivered by two long fangs
and it also has a clever array of super senses
to help it track and target its victims.
It looks like we're dealing with a sophisticated hunter.
How on earth is the prey going to stay out of this predator's clutches?
Well, the striped mouse's defence relies on hearing and speed,
and a bounding body that's designed to go where predators can't.
Well, based on all of that,
I'd say this is going to be a pretty interesting hunt.
Let's see how it unfolds.
We've wound back to mid-morning,
and after a couple of hours warming up in the sun,
the cold-blooded puff adder is now ready to start its hunt.
Let's zoom in to our onboard snake cam.
Looking at the world from the puff adder's point of view,
you can see how tricky it's going to be to find small prey,
like a mouse, in this environment.
There are thousands of places for it to hide.
And if we switch to our mouse
we can see that it's being careful to stay in close
amongst the rocks and shrubs, to avoid giving its position away.
Striped mice may look cute and cuddly,
but they're actually tough, adaptable animals that can survive
even in a hostile environment like this,
where they're surrounded by predators.
So what's their secret? Let's have a closer look.
The striped mouse is common and widespread throughout Africa
and it's common prey for snakes.
But that doesn't mean that it's defenceless.
First of all the stripes that give it its name.
Those serve to interrupt its uniform colouration
and break up its outline against its background.
This is an animal that has fantastic ears - it can hear really well.
It also has these sensitive whiskers.
And as a last resort, if it's grabbed by the tail by a predator,
it can simply drop it, although it can't regrow it later.
Let's see how this animal fares against the mighty puff adder.
With all those adaptations for avoiding predators, the mouse
is a difficult target for the snake to track down.
The puff adder only needs to eat once every three or four weeks,
which means it has time on its side.
So, instead of trying to hunt down its prey,
it's going to set an ambush and wait for the mouse to come to it.
But in this huge, open, wilderness,
how on earth does it know the right spot to lay its trap?
This is when the snake's own super senses come into play.
When mice are out foraging they often follow the same tracks,
usually trails close to cover so they can scamper off if they're sensed.
But if they use these trails too often,
they leave their own invisible scent markings behind
and it's this that the snake zones in on.
That forked tongue flicks onto the air and gather in scent molecules,
drawing them back into the head where they're processed
in the Jacobson's Organ in the roof of the mouth.
Because the tongue's forked,
it draws in scent molecules from two different directions
and the strongest scent is the area the snake's going to move towards.
In effect, the snake's smelling in stereo!
So, the snake knows exactly where to hang out to wait for the mouse.
It might help us to better understand this face-off
if we look at the skull of a viper.
I think the most interesting thing about this skull
is how unbelievably fragile it is.
There's no weight to it whatsoever, all of the bones
are very, very slender and, really,
this tells an awful lot about how this snake chooses to hunt.
Each one of these fangs is hollow,
it's very much like a hypodermic needle
and the venom gland sits here,
along the length of the upper jaw and feeds through into that hollow fang.
So, it will stab those fangs, injecting venom into its prey
and then it just releases it and sits back and waits.
There's a very good reason for this.
If it was to try and keep a hold of something like a struggling mouse,
the chances of it doing it damage are very, very high.
It could easily break one of those fangs
and that could be terminal for this snake.
However if it strikes, releases and waits for the venom
to take its course, then really the snake is in no danger.
Right, let's see how this mini drama plays out.
The puff adder has laid its trap.
It just needs the mouse to come within striking range.
The mouse is following its usual trail,
leading it right into the danger zone.
This could be the snake's only chance to make a kill.
Whoa! That was really quick!
Perhaps a bit too quick to see clearly!
Let's have a look in more detail.
The puff adder's targeting system is so complex and so quick,
that the only way we'll be able to follow the action
is by adding some visual aids. Right, here's what happens.
First, its eyes are particularly good at detecting movement.
Second, instead of hearing sound like we do,
it actually senses vibrations through the jaw bone.
With its jaw resting on the ground,
it can pick up the miniscule vibrations
made by the mouse's feet as it moves across the sand.
And finally, when it comes to within 15cm,
heat-sensitive cells in the adder's lips pick up the mouse's body heat
and let the snake know its prey is within strike range.
The snake lashes out at incredible speed.
It drives its two fangs deep into the mouse's body
and delivers its venom, then quickly retreats to avoid injuring itself.
So, even though it looks like the mouse is escaping,
the lethal venom is already in its bloodstream
and will kill it within minutes.
All the snake has to do is follow the scent trail to its victim.
It might be some time before it reaches the body,
but in the end, the puff adder gets the meal.
So, all of the mouse's senses
and defences were rendered completely useless
by the fact that the snake simply didn't move until the crucial moment.
The mouse never saw it coming.
So the striped mouse had its speed, acute hearing and quick reactions.
But they couldn't save it
from the puff adder's incredible targeting system,
ultra-fast strike and deadly toxic venom.
And that's breakfast,
lunch and supper all in one mouthful for the snake.
Now on to our next pair of hunters locked in a battle for survival.
For the predators, it's the African rock python.
Compared to the puff adder, this snake is an absolute giant -
six metres long and weighing over 50 kilos -
it's one of the biggest snakes on the planet!
And up against it is this.
It's a springbok. Our python needs more than a mouse to make a meal,
so it's got its sights set on this sleek, streamlined sprinter.
But which has the edge in the race for life?
It's time to go Deadly 360.
Here we are at the business end of our hunt.
It looks like the python is launching its attack
from very different surroundings.
It's actually lying submerged in water.
The springbok's come to drink,
but with its sharp eyesight, will it spot the giant predator in time?
But by now you know there's a lot more to a hunt than just
the final strike. What are the hidden factors that influence
what's going to happen in the next few seconds?
To find out, we need to wind back to the start and dissect the hunt.
OK, first let's set the scene.
Well, we're back in Africa again - this time in Botswana,
in the Okavango Delta.
It's a fertile region, with a mix of light vegetation
and wide open spaces.
Plus, it's late summer and daytime temperatures are still very high,
which means water is going to play an important part in this hunt.
So, that's the arena for our gladiatorial contest.
What weapons and defences do the two animals doing battle have?
The python has the same sharp senses as the puff adder,
but unlike the viper, it isn't armed with venom.
Instead, it relies on its massive muscular body to kill its prey.
So, I think it's clear, we're dealing with another well-equipped predator.
But how's our prey going to try and neutralise the threat?
With exceptional hearing and eyesight,
a springbok is always on high alert.
Plus its sharp reactions
and explosive speed are great for getting it out of trouble fast!
So our predator's going to find it pretty difficult
to get anywhere near this prey.
Let's see what happens. The python's been resting underground
during the long, hot African summer and as a result it may not have
eaten for several months, but such a long period without food
is not unusual for this snake - it's extremely good at conserving energy.
For example, let's have a look at the way it's moving.
Snakes have many different methods of locomotion,
but the large pythons can get around by contracting and relaxing
the muscles on their underside and inching along almost like a worm.
It's a very, very energy efficient way of moving,
but it's also pretty slow.
So, let's hope that there's a tasty springbok somewhere nearby.
Well, it looks like the python's in luck -
there's a herd of springbok moving into the area.
But if the snake wants to catch one, it still has a lot of work to do.
It needs to overcome the springbok's sharp eyesight,
in order to get close enough to launch an attack.
And any strike will need to be
faster than its prey's reactions and rapid acceleration.
The springbok is certainly capable of running or leaping
away from predators, but this is something slightly different.
This straight-legged, rather beautiful, gait is known as pronking.
Now this might be being used in order for the animal
to survey the surroundings,
it could be used to confuse or deter a predator, but the main function
of pronking is to prove to a predator quite how capable this animal is.
It's saying, "Look at me, look how high I can jump,
"look how fit and able I am,
"it would be absolutely pointless trying to chase me."
OK, so out on the plains, on open ground, it's clear that the agile,
speedy springbok has a big advantage over the much slower snake.
As long as it can see the python coming, it's in no real danger.
So the snake needs to find some way to even the odds.
And it looks like it might have one.
Big pythons are actually more comfortable in the water
than they are on land,
because the water supports much of their huge body weight.
It's also a really, really good place for them to launch an attack.
They do have to breathe air,
so they'll have to come to the surface, but all they have to do
is pop their nostrils above the surface of the water
take one breath and hold it for probably 15 minutes at a time.
Now it's in the water it's the python that has the advantage.
The springbok's defences of speed and agility
are a lot less effective if it's caught off guard.
All the python has to do is wait.
If necessary, it can stay under the water for days,
until that perfect moment to strike presents itself.
It looks like we're going to have to fast-forward quite a long way.
Right through the night and into the next day.
OK, now, our snake's been lying in wait for over 24 hours
and the waterhole is finally starting to get busy.
There's lots of possible prey around including... Yes! The springboks.
But hang on a second.
How on Earth is it going to immobilise its prey with no venom?
This snake has a particularly brutal way of catching
and killing its prey. It's called constriction.
Now, this is an Indian rock python.
It's subtly different to the African rock python
and this one here isn't especially long,
it's no more than two metres in length,
but more broad, powerful, muscular, than you'd find in a venomous snake.
And that's because, really, all of this size,
this massive cross-section,
is about housing the muscles that it uses to crush its prey.
It lunges out, hooks in the re-curved teeth,
that will catch a hold of it and not allow it to escape
and then a couple of coils of this body are going to wrap around it.
Then it'll just start squeezing.
That constriction can kill in several different ways,
the first, on small prey,
is simply to crush all the bones and destroy the vital organs.
The second is to stop it from breathing, to suffocate it,
and the third is to actually block the veins, the arteries,
and importantly the nerves that run to the heart
and that causes a massive heart attack that kill its prey quickly.
So, let's find out if our snake is going to be successful.
The python has spent a day trying to get itself
into a position from where it can make a potential kill.
One false move at this stage and that work will have been for nothing.
The springbok has incredible vision,
but it seems to be looking for predators sneaking up
from the sides or behind, not from underwater.
Wow! Let's just see that in slow motion.
Under the water, the python's coiled, ready to strike
and it lunges forward towards the springbok.
Once it's got a hold of it, with its backwards-pointing teeth
there is no way this animal can escape.
The python throws the enormity of its body around the springbok,
choking the life out of it.
Once it's dead, the python's then going to swallow it whole,
unlocking its jaws and walking them down over the entire body,
horns and all!
It may look like a horror show, but this remarkable adaptation
lets it eat something several times the size of its own head in one go.
The snake won't need to eat again for almost a year!
Using water as a means of concealing its approach was absolutely key
to the success of the rock python on this occasion.
But swallowing that springbok whole -
that was the most grisly thing you'll ever see!
The springbok had...
superb vision, speed, and agility.
But the python managed to overcome all these defences using stealth,
a lightning-fast strike, plus its heart-stopping constriction.
And after a meal that big,
let's just hope it doesn't get indigestion!
This is our last deadly duo locked in a battle for life or death.
For the predators, it's a tough little snake
that makes its home in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth!
It's the banded sand snake.
And up against it...is this.
A scorpion. You might expect this animal to be on our predator list,
but this time the hunter has become the hunted.
But which animal has the edge in the race for survival?
It's time to go 360.
We've dropped straight into the action, or have we?
It's the middle of the night.
There's the scorpion, but it doesn't seem to be doing much.
It may be out on a hunt, but it needs to stay alert
or it could be the one to end up as lunch.
Whoa! I think we need to pause and wind back the hunt.
Hopefully, that'll help us make sense of what we've just seen.
First off, where is this all taking place?
We're now in the USA, in the Mojave Desert.
It's a classic desert landscape with sparse vegetation
and plenty of sand.
And of course, the weather is extreme!
Temperatures here can reach 50 degrees Celsius during the day,
but at night they often drop to well below freezing!
I think it's fair to say
this is a pretty challenging environment for a hunt.
What do our two animals have that's going to give them an edge
in such extreme conditions?
First, the banded sand snake. It uses venom like the puff adder
and constriction like the python.
In addition to the standard serpent super senses,
it also has a very clever way of getting around.
Those are the weapons our predator will unleash on its target.
What about the animal in the firing line?
What's it got to protect itself?
The scorpion certainly isn't short on weapons either.
There's that famous stinger, loaded with venom,
snapping pincers used for both attack and defence
and they also have their own detection system
to help spot prey and predators.
We have two very different animals.
But which one's going to come out on top in this hunt?
Let's find out.
The banded sand snake is hunting in the evening, before sunset,
in order to avoid those scorching daytime temperatures.
Hunting in a desert presents a lot of challenges
for a predator. It's hard to move around on the soft, shifting sand
and there's not much cover to sneak up on other animals.
This snake has come up with a unique solution to both those problems.
It swims through the sand.
But how on Earth does it manage it?
Well, they have a whole range of special adaptations
to surviving in this incredibly challenging environment.
First, the scales are particularly hard and glossy
and the head is streamlined,
to enable it to move easily through the sand.
Like all snakes,
they have a transparent scale called a brille over the eyes,
but they also have a valve in the nostril to prevent sand getting in.
And the snake's shape creates a pocket of air underneath them,
enabling them to stay underground for as much as two hours at a time.
But how on Earth are you going to find your prey
if you're buried in sand?
Snakes have no external ears,
which has often led to people assuming that they can't hear.
This couldn't be further from the truth.
Actually, they have fully functioning inner ear bones.
So, in order to pick up sounds, what they need to do
is transmit vibrations through their jaws into those bones.
Now the way this works is really quite interesting.
Any tiny movement on the surface of the sand transmits vibrations
that move in waves, like ripples across the surface of a pond.
If those vibrations reach the left side of the snake's jaw first,
then that's the direction the vibrations are coming from
and it can move towards potential prey it knows is in that direction.
Let's see if this snake can use vibrations
to get a hold of that scorpion.
The scorpion's best chance of remaining undetected
is to simply stay still. If it doesn't move,
there will be no signals for the snake to pick up.
But it also needs to eat, so as the sun starts to set,
it has little choice but to start its own search for food.
So this is what it's after. A tasty beetle!
Now just like the snake, the scorpion has its own built-in sensory system.
Its legs and body are covered with tiny sensitive hairs
which can pick up vibrations from the ground and also movements in the air.
Every tiny step the beetle makes creates a vibration,
a wave of energy which would be tiny to us,
but is truly massive to our scorpion.
It'll zone in on it and follow it to the beetle.
But the scorpion isn't the only one that's heard the commotion.
Here comes the banded sand snake.
It's picking up the signals from both animals.
So, the snake wants the scorpion, the scorpion wants the beetle,
and the beetle just wants to get out of there!
So who's going to strike first?
And if it's the snake, what can the scorpion do to defend itself?
Let's have a look.
Scorpions are a particularly ancient group of animals.
There are fossilised specimens well over 100-million-years-old
that look very, very similar,
almost identical, to this live scorpion here today.
Let's see if I can just pick this up. OK, here you go.
It's scampering around, can't quite get purchase on this surface.
There he is.
Now hopefully, as long as I can keep him moving one direction,
I shouldn't get either pinched or stung, but, famous last words!
You can see those powerful pincers coming straight towards you now.
In this particular species,
you can see they are quite big, quite sizable,
and they've got big muscles inside there that drive these pincers
and that's its primary means of defending itself.
It does also have, if I turn it, the classic scorpion stinger
and you can see at the end of that, the wicked barb,
which is needle-sharp
and that's what it uses for injecting that famous venom.
So, now we've seen how the scorpion can defend itself,
let's see how it fares against the snake.
We've reached a fascinating point in the hunt
and, unusually for Deadly 360, there are actually three animals involved!
We've got the scorpion, here, waiting to pounce on the beetle,
but we've also got the snake, buried here,
waiting for its chance to strike at the scorpion.
Looks like we've got ourselves a real Wild West stand-off.
Bang! It's over in a few hundredth's of a second.
What happened? Let's pause it, rewind
and watch in slow motion.
You can see the scorpion is ready to charge in on the beetle,
but, here comes the sand snake
and look at the speed of that strike!
Instantly, the coils of the body wrap around the scorpion.
It's frantically trying to get its stinger into the snake
and trying to get it in-between the scales,
but even when it does sting,
the venom just isn't potent enough to deter the snake
and as far as the pincers, they don't help when you're getting eaten alive.
That is an incredibly powerful, potent and perfect hunt
and a pretty sizable meal, too.
In the world's deserts,
there's a constant evolutionary arms race going on
and even animals like scorpions that seem to have impenetrable armour,
there's going to be a predator that's going to be able to overcome it.
In this case, it was our snake.
So the scorpion had...
its built-in detection system,
large pincers and venomous stinger.
But the banded sand snake stormed these defences
with its sand-swimming stealth, super-sensitive hearing,
and a quick-fire killer strike.
If the scorpion had been more focused on defence,
it might have survived.
But this time, the beetle was the one that got away.
Snakes are one of my favourite groups of animals
and they're much more complex than people often think.
Of the 2,600-odd different species
there are some that overpower their prey with virulent venom,
some that use pure strength,
some of them that will simply use stealth and silence,
but they all can swallow prey larger than their own head
and they're all incredibly successful predators.
That's all we've got time for.
Join us next time as three more pairs of animals go head-to-head
and we analyse the action Deadly-360 style.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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