How do snakes move?

Have you ever wondered how snakes move around? Everyone has heard phrases like “slithering snake” and sneaky sidewinder, but what do they mean? Well since snakes have no legs so they use their super strong muscles and their ridged belly or ventral scales to do their "walking".

Snakes most often crawl using one of two standard methods: the first is the classic move that most people think of when the imaging a snake crawling. Lateral undulation, also called serpentine motion, or slithering, is a method that uses a side-to-side movement to propel the snake forward. They will push off any hard surface like rocks, trees, or buildings to start the motion. As they move forward, the front half of the snake goes opposite way of the back half and then it shifts. The snake undulates in a hypnotic in a wavy pattern as it moves forward.

They also use a method called rectilinear progression. This method uses the snake’s tough musculature to “walk” on their ribcage. The snake does this by stiffening some of the wide scales on its belly causing them to grip the ground while the other scales push forwards. This results in a slow, yet straightforward movement. Why these methods are not usually, enough to get the snake where it does not want to go, of these methods is very good for moving over slick surfaces like mud, glass, or wet grass nor are they useful in tight spaces.

A more difficult way of movement for the snake is called the Concertina method. While it is more complex for the snake to execute this move, it is highly effective in tight spaces. To accomplish this move the snake must brace its posterior end against a solid object (like a wall) then while pushing against the wall it must extend its front portion. Once stretched out it drops its front portion, grips the ground, and pulls its rear up behind it. This slingshot kind of method propels the snake forward quickly.

Side winding is a motion often used by snakes to move across slippery surfaces like wet grass or mud. The snake throws its head forward and to the side allowing the rest of its relaxed body to follow. It continues this motion until reaches a point where it scales can get a grip.

Snakes cannot (or will not) go backwards- ever. They have the ability to stop suddenly and make a quick course adjustment. They do this by flexing the muscles along their ventral (belly) scales. Each ventral scale has its own set of muscles that can be worked independently of the snakes other muscles. This is what gives the snake such total control over its movements.

Read the How to get rid of snakes page for helpful information and to learn more about How do snakes move?

How do snakes move?

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