How Do Snakes Move?

Snakes are the most widespread, diversified predators on the planet, but how do they manage to get around so easily without limbs?
With their incredible structure of spine, ribs & muscles, snakes are able to move with ease, but the REAL secret to snake motion is found in their belly scales. Each ventral scale on a snake’s belly has a little flap of extra skin on the trailing edge. This allows the snake to use it’s muscles to extend that edge to provide grip on the surface beneath them. In fact, those scales are so effective at gripping, that many snakes can climb a tree vertically, just by hooking their belly scales on the rough tree-bark.

With the help of those tank tread scales, snakes are able to move in a number of different ways. The most familiar, is the serpentine movement, where the snake pushes off various bends to move forward at amazing speed, but there are many other ways a snake can move. When there’s not enough space to slither, or while climbing, snakes can move concertina-style, simply dragging the rear of their body forward, and then using that to push their front ahead.

“Sidewinding” is a specialized form of diagonal serpentine movement that’s of great benefit to desert snakes. It provides extra traction on loose sand, and only one small portion of their body is in contact with the hot sand for a moment, preventing overheating & burns.

“Caterpillar” motion is typically used by heavy bodied snakes like pythons and vipers, where an undulating motion of muscles allows them to use their ventral scales much like caterpillar feet, moving forward in a straight line. It may seem slow, but ambush predators have no need to chase down prey.

Comments are closed.