Question about snake locomotion

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MCHerper
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Question about snake locomotion

Post by MCHerper » November 17th, 2014, 10:42 am

Hi Folks,

I observed something interesting a few months ago and wanted to follow up with a question. For snakes in the colubrid, viper and elapid families, are they all capable of all of the major types of locomotion? I thought that many snakes were restricted and could not perform rectilinear movements, but a few months ago I saw a black rat snake that was poker-straight and moving slowly forward with what looked to me like rectilinear movement. If there were any lateral bends in his body, they were no more than a cm or two, yet he was moving forward with chin up. Look forward to your input!

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Bryan Hamilton
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Re: Question about snake locomotion

Post by Bryan Hamilton » November 17th, 2014, 11:20 am

I believe that those families are all capable of rectilinear locomotion. I've seen big rattlesnakes moving rectilinearly on roads fairly often.

simus343
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Re: Question about snake locomotion

Post by simus343 » November 18th, 2014, 8:02 pm

I have seen Grey Rat Snakes moving rectilinear quite often, same with Eastern Hognose Snakes, Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes, and Dusky Pygmy Rattlesnakes.

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salamanderhunter
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Re: Question about snake locomotion

Post by salamanderhunter » November 20th, 2014, 3:08 pm

I think the answer to your question is probably closer to yes than no. Most snakes can use all types of locomotion in a pinch, they just normally use the type that is the most energy efficient...or in some cases, like colubrids moving rectilinearly, the type that is most ninja-like. The upcoming "N. American Reptiles and Amphibians: Track and Sign" (PNW Herper on this forum) I'm pretty sure deals with the topic in depth. :beer:

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PNWHerper
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Re: Question about snake locomotion

Post by PNWHerper » November 20th, 2014, 4:45 pm

Thanks for the tip of the hat, salamanderhunter.

Yes, snakes can do all kinds of styles of locomotion. They will typically do what is most efficient for their bodies. For instance, most of the time a rat snake will do lateral undulation, most of the time a sidewinder will sidewind, and a big python will mostly do rectilinear locomotion. Some are physically limited, such as blindsnakes (who lack enlarged ventral scutes), while others have body types best suited for certain ones. A ratsnake is unlikely to do sidewinding, and if it does, it will be very messy, inefficient and very short distance. It has a long, muscular body better suited for climbing, and doing lateral undulation.

Snake also change locomotion due to changes in substrate or behavior. A ratsnake trying to avoid detection, with a full belly or feeling colder might spend more time doing lateral undulation. Typically, the larger the ratsnake, the more likely it will use rectilinear locomotion more frequently.


Hope that is helpful.

~ Fil

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The Real Snake Man
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Re: Question about snake locomotion

Post by The Real Snake Man » November 20th, 2014, 6:17 pm

PNWHerper wrote:Thanks for the tip of the hat, salamanderhunter.

Yes, snakes can do all kinds of styles of locomotion. They will typically do what is most efficient for their bodies. For instance, most of the time a rat snake will do lateral undulation, most of the time a sidewinder will sidewind, and a big python will mostly do rectilinear locomotion. Some are physically limited, such as blindsnakes (who lack enlarged ventral scutes), while others have body types best suited for certain ones. A ratsnake is unlikely to do sidewinding, and if it does, it will be very messy, inefficient and very short distance. It has a long, muscular body better suited for climbing, and doing lateral undulation.

Snake also change locomotion due to changes in substrate or behavior. A ratsnake trying to avoid detection, with a full belly or feeling colder might spend more time doing lateral undulation. Typically, the larger the ratsnake, the more likely it will use rectilinear locomotion more frequently.


Hope that is helpful.

~ Fil
Present us with your creation already! :mrgreen:

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