“Hurry Priscilla!  Catch the snake, he’s running away!” en route to catch said snake, I started to think to myself, ‘Hmmm I wonder if the kids know HOW snakes actually move around?’  Taking it upon myself to get to the bottom of this mysterious snake movement question, I tossed the question out there.  “Who here knows HOW snakes move around?” shortly after I asked this I was astounded at the many answers our creative little ones had.  “He Runs!” “He Jumps!” “He Flys!” after several minutes of laughing, I chimed back in and told the kids that you learn something new every day, and thanks to their one of a kind Jurassic Party, they were going to learn that and much more!


It seems like a simple question to ask but in order to understand the different species; it helps to know even the smallest details (Like movement) that separate them.  Although we may not live in the areas to physically see the different types of movement possible by our Serpent friends, it’s easy to identify the process just by the way the snakes body is formed when he attempts to move.  The most popular and widely known form of movement is called, Serpentine Method.  This S-shape motion is what most people think of when they think of snakes.   Starting at the neck, a snake contracts its muscles, propelling its body from side to side, creating a chain of curves.  They will push off of any bump or other surface to get moving. They move in a wavy motion and wouldn’t be able to move over slick surfaces like glass at all.  Majority of all pet and common snakes will use this method of movement.

Another method used is called Sidewinding.  While side-winding, only a few points of the snakes’ body contact the hot sand at any one time. In environments with few conflict points, snakes may use a variation of serpentine motion to get around. Contracting their muscles and flinging their bodies, sidewinders create an S-shape that only has TWO points of contact with the ground; when they push off, they move sideways. The snake will lift the middle of its body up and then push it down forcing its head to move forward.  Much of a sidewinding snake's body is off the ground while it moves, Cool huh?!  The most infamous example of this type of locomotion can be found in the aptly named, Sidewinder. 

The tracks left behind show at what points the snake's body came into contact with the ground.

The next example of motion is called the Rectilinear Method, this is a slow, creeping, straight movement. The snake uses some of the wide scales on its belly to grip the ground while pushing forward with the others.  These waves are much smaller and curve up and down rather than side to side. When a snake uses caterpillar (Rectilinear) movement, the tops of each curve are lifted above the ground as the ventral scales on the bottoms push against the ground, creating a ripple effect similar to how a caterpillar looks when it walks.  This method of locomotion is extremely slow, but is also almost noiseless and very hard to detect, making it the mode of choice for many species when stalking prey. 

Lastly, there is the Concertina Method.  The previous methods work well for horizontal surfaces, but snakes climb using the Concertina technique. The snake extends its head and the front of its body along the vertical surface and then finds a place to grip with its ventral scales. To get a good hold, it bunches up the middle of its body into tight curves that grip the surface while it pulls its back end up; then it springs forward again to find a new place to grip with its scales!  Like a Spider Monkey Snake!  ^O^ 

Hopefully this information helped shed some light on one of the many reasons why our reptile friends are so unique and special.  Next time you’re watching a snake show, visiting us at the Zoo or playing with your own pet snake; see if you can identify what type of motion the snakes uses to move around!



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