The mechanics of slithering locomotion

David L. Hu, Jasmine Nirody, Terri Scott, Michael J. Shelley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In this experimental and theoretical study, we investigate the slithering of snakes on flat surfaces. Previous studies of slithering have rested on the assumption that snakes slither by pushing laterally against rocks and branches. In this study, we develop a theoretical model for slithering locomotion by observing snake motion kinematics and experimentally measuring the friction coefficients of snakeskin. Our predictions of body speed show good agreement with observations, demonstrating that snake propulsion on flat ground, and possibly in general, relies critically on the frictional anisotropy of their scales. We have also highlighted the importance of weight distribution in lateral undulation, previously difficult to visualize and hence assumed uniform. The ability to redistribute weight, clearly of importance when appendages are airborne in limbed locomotion, has a much broader generality, as shown by its role in improving limbless locomotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10081-10085
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume106
Issue number25
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 23 2009

Keywords

  • Friction
  • Locomotion
  • Snake

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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