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The small but resourceful kangaroo mouse. In Frank Herbert’s Dune, hero Paul Atreides takes the name "Muad'Dib," or "kangaroo mouse" in the Fremen language. Photo courtesy of Ned Docthermann

If you’ve ever wondered about the appropriateness of Dune hero Paul Muad’Dib’s chosen name—“muad’dib” means “kangaroo mouse” in the Fremen tongue—rest assured that the diminutive “muad’dib” is one mighty mouse.

Ned Dochtermann is an assistant professor of behavioral and evolutionary ecology at North Dakota State University, where he studies the kangaroo mouse and its larger (but otherwise similar) cousin, the kangaroo rat (pictured below). “Kangaroo mice are really just shrunk down kangaroo rats,” says Ned. In the clip below, Ned explains why the kangaroo mouse is a fitting namesake for a fierce desert warrior like Paul.

The kangaroo mouse's larger cousin, the kangaroo rat.