How do snakes move?

Reading snake

Snakes are known to have four different ways of moving around, and different species of snake will often adopt different ways of moving. Those species that live in the trees won't benefit from expert skills in ground-level slithering, for example. Snakes that commonly spend almost all of their time in the water are going to have much better use for expert swimming skills, than they will for expert tree-climbing skills. Many snakes have adapted to the kind of environment they find themselves in, and this will include the way that they move about also.

The Rectilinear Method of movement involves the snake grabbing hold of a surface with strong and powerful scales and muscles on the belly and underside of its body. A straight movement that is slow, deliberately, and stealth-like, it is a method adopted by many snakes right before they make the final leap to snap onto their prey. As some of the belly scales and muscles grab a hold of the surface they’re on, usually the ground, the rest of the snake is propelled forward.

Other snakes may use a method of getting around called the Concertina Method. The name gives the game away; the snake moves very much like the concertina music instrument, a great action that the snake can use when it finds itself in a rather tight spot, such as a super enclosed space. It’s quite a difficult way for the snake to move, using the back/lower end of their body as an anchor while the top/front half moves forward or upwards. Once the front is up, all that's left to do is drag the back up behind it. As you can imagine, the larger the snake, the more energy it takes to do this for a long period of time. It's the kind of movement most snakes would use only when they really had to — when there was no other way of getting out of that situation.

The Serpentine Method is the one that most people would think of when discussing how snakes move around. Using other items or surfaces, such as branches of trees, rocks, or perhaps even the ground, the wave-shaped motion has a more technical name — lateral undulation. It's not the best kind of movement for when you're on a slick, flat, smooth surface, but other surfaces make this a relatively easy way for snakes to move.

Finally, we come to the Sidewinder Method. There are even snakes named after this infamous slithering movement, often seen used by snakes in sandy deserts. The winding tracks are left behind in the sand, showing how the snake propels itself forward, but in a wave-shape, side-winding, rather than propelling themselves forward.

Of course, these movements can be used in an array of different ways, depending on the habitat the reptile is trying to maneuver.

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