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.