Scientists discover bizarre new mode of snake locomotion
- A team of researchers from Colorado State University and the University of Cincinnati have discovered a new mode of snake locomotion that allows the brown tree snake to ascend much larger smooth cylinders than any previously known behavior.
- This lasso locomotion, named because of a lasso-like body posture, may contribute to the success and impact of this highly invasive species.
- It allows these animals to access potential prey that might otherwise be unobtainable and may also explain how this species could climb power poles, leading to electrical outages.
- Researchers said they hope the findings will help people protect endangered birds from the snakes.
- The study, “Lasso locomotion expands the climbing repertoire of snakes,” is published Jan. 11 in Current Biology.
- For nearly 100 years, all snake locomotion has been traditionally categorized into four modes: rectilinear, lateral undulation, sidewinding and concertina.
- This new discovery of a fifth mode of locomotion was the unexpected result of a project led by CSU Emeritus Professor Julie Savidge aimed at protecting the nests of Micronesia starlings, one of only two native forest species still remaining on Guam.
- Seibert returned to Guam to record high-resolution video of this new climbing method so that Jayne could better interpret the snakes’ movements.
- “It wasn’t obvious how they were able to climb a cylinder,” Jayne said. “The snake has these little bends within the loop of the lasso that allow it to advance upwards by shifting the location of each bend.”
- Lasso locomotion is more physically demanding than other climbing methods, Jayne said.
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