Friction enhancement in concertina locomotion of snakes

Hamidreza Marvi, David L. Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Narrow crevices are challenging terrain for most organisms and biomimetic robots. Snakes move through crevices using sequential folding and unfolding of their bodies in the manner of an accordion or concertina. In this combined experimental and theoretical investigation, we elucidate this effective means of moving through channels. We measure the frictional properties of corn snakes, their body kinematics and the transverse forces they apply to channels of varying width and inclination. To climb channels inclined at 608, we find snakes use a combination of ingenious friction-enhancing techniques, including digging their ventral scales to double their frictional coefficient and pushing channel walls transversely with up to nine times body weight. Theoretical modelling of a one-dimensional n-linked crawler is used to calculate the transverse force factor of safety: we find snakes push up to four times more than required to prevent sliding backwards, presumably trading metabolic energy for an assurance of wall stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3067-3080
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number76
StatePublished - Nov 7 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Anchorage
  • Gait
  • Limbless locomotion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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