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Expert unlocks mechanics of how snakes move in a straight line
Snakes are known for their iconic S-shaped movements. But they have a less noticeable skill that gives them a unique superpower. Snakes can crawl in a straight line. University of Cincinnati biologist Bruce Jayne studied the mechanics of snake movement to understand exactly how they can propel themselves forward like a train through a tunnel.
“It’s a very good way to move in confined spaces,” Jayne said. “A lot of heavy-bodied snakes use this locomotion: vipers, boa constrictors, anacondas and pythons.”
Snakes typically swim, climb or crawl by bending their spine into serpentine coils or using the leading edges to push off objects. An extreme example of their diversity of movement gives the sidewinder rattlesnake its name.
Jayne already has unlocked the mechanics of three kinds of snake locomotion called concertina, serpentine and sidewinding. But the straightforward movement of snakes, called “rectilinear locomotion,” has got less attention, he said.
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