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Thread: Snakes Photo News

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    Senior Member Array mrina's Avatar
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    Snakes Photo News

    Snakes Photo News
    Snakes on Gel, in Jackets Illuminate Slithering

    To test how snakes would move without the aid of their scales, the team behind the June 2009 study put corn snakes in cloth "straitjackets" they jokingly called "snondoms" (pictured) and, separately, on supersmooth surfaces.


    In both cases, the snakes could not move forward because their scales could not "gain purchase" on the ground, Hu said.

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    —Photograph courtesy David Hu

    Wide belly scales on snakes, such as this corn snake in an undated photo, snag on uneven ground surfaces, creating friction and enabling the reptiles' movement, according to a June 2009 study.

    Like shingles on a roof, the scales are laid out in a way that orients the snake forward and prevents it from sliding backward.

    Hu likens the scales' arrangement to cross-country skis or ice skates, in which sliding forward is easier than going sideways.
    —Photograph courtesy David Hu

    Researchers shine polarized light from beneath a transparent surface covered with a "photoelastic" gelatin as a corn snake slithers in an undated photo. Bright regions indicate where the snake is applying the most force.

    Such experiments helped reveal that snakes throw their weight around to speed up their slink, the researchers reported in a June 2009 study.

    The reptiles don't lie totally flat on the ground as they move, study leader David Hu said.

    "If you imagine you have a shoestring on the ground in the shape of an s, the curved parts of the s are lifted slightly, and the remaining weight is concentrated on the middle part of the s."

    So snakes will lean on the lifted areas with the most force--an adaptation that allows them to travel much faster.

    People move their weight in the same way, Hu added: If a person leans to the right and takes a step, that right foot takes the brunt of the body's weight and provides the most forward momentum.
    —Photograph courtesy David Hu

    June, 2009--A corn snake uses its belly scales to achieve its trademark slither.

    Scientists had previously assumed that the limbless reptiles move by pushing against objects, such as as twigs and rocks.

    New research confirms that friction is indeed at work but instead at a microscopic scale: The snakes' overlapping belly scales react against uneven areas on the ground, said lead study author David Hu, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech.

    The discovery, detailed this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may inspire more efficient limbless robots, which could, for instance, slither into a person's body and assist in surgery.

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