How Do Snakes Move?

Posted by Christy Caplan
How Snakes Move

Did you know that snakes move in four different ways?

Snakes can move on hot and slippery surfaces! They're also able to move really fast and there is a species in Africa known for its speed. This snake can travel at spurts of 7 miles per hour. It's the most feared snake in all of Africa.

We found a wonderful video from the BBC that shows how snakes move.

How do snakes move?

How do snakes move without limbs?

1. Serpentine movement

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This is the motion used by most snakes. The serpentine movement consists of a wavy, S-shaped movement, for that reason is also known as lateral undulation. The snake will contract its muscles starting at the head, moving its body from side to side, creating a series of curves. 

2. Caterpillar or rectilinear movement

This consists of a slow, steady movement.

Snakes use their wide ventral scales located on their belly to grip the ground while using other scales to push forward. It's still a wavy movement but instead of side to side like in serpentine movement, the snake body forms small, up and down curves. 

3. Sidewinding movement

If you're a snake and on sand or mud then this is the movement you use!

By contracting their muscles and pushing off only 2 contact points, they launch their body throwing the head forward and the rest of the body follows moving sideways. Hence the name sidewinding movement. 

4. Concertina movement

This movement is effective in tight spaces. It's also used for climbing! Yikes!

When snakes need to climb or move in tight spaces, they will use a motion type called the concertina movement. Snake Facts tells us that in this type of locomotion, snakes extend the front part of their body along the vertical surface and use their belly scales also known as ventral scales to grip the surface.

The snake ensures a tight grip by bunching its body into several tight curves. The snake achieves the movement by continually springing forward again and again to find a new place to grip the anterior part of its body.

One fun fact you wish you didn't know? There are real flying snakes in the rainforests of South and Southeast Asia. There are 5 types of flying snakes that move mostly by flying or gliding from one tree to another.

The next time you think about how fast that venomous snake can go to reach you remember that they have four different ways to travel. It's not just a straight line like you thought! Snakes mainly look like they're just slithering but snake movement as you've learned is complex.

Different snake species may slither or even 'run' towards you and some are more aggressive than other species of snakes. Different types of snakes may consider different motions based on the surface they're on.

A snake's body is quite amazing. A rattlesnake, vipers, anaconda and boa constrictor all have their own movement.

Do you own a reptile or a snake? Please leave us a comment below!

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How Do Snakes Move?