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How Snakes Climb

A new study examines how snakes are able to climb vertical surfaces.

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Snake Climbing
How do snakes maneuver around the tops of trees? A new study has some answers.

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati used vertical rope to test snakes’ climbing ability and assess how they can maneuver around branches and vines to get food and escape predators in the wild.

Young boa constrictors were sent up ropes with three diameters and four tensions. Researchers found that the snakes’ speed decreased significantly with both decreased diameter and increased slackness, and that snakes used more of their bodies to grip the thinner, slacker ropes. On the thicker ropes, snakes were able to move more of their bodies forward at once and primarily gripped the rope in one spot. While both diameter and tension affected the way the snakes climbed, diameter had a greater overall impact.


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According to the researchers, snakes in arboreal habitats face unique challenges in maneuvering around branches of varying thickness and slackness, which can affect the snakes’ stability and energy levels.