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  • Strategy

Waves of shortening used to move: boa constrictor


Boa constrictor / Embreus / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

Bodies of boas and pythons can move in a worm-like extended fashion by passing waves of shortening down their bodies.

"A few snakes, such as boas and pythons, can move forward when extended lengthwise in a wormlike fashion rather than with their bodies bent into curves. They're not fast, and the behavior seems to be used for a stealthy approach to prey. With backbones fixing their lengths, they can't work exactly like earthworms--they instead use waves of shortening that pass rearward along a powerful lengthwise band of ventral muscle. So the top of the snake moves steadily. Meanwhile, its bottom has a stop and start motion as successive segments are fixed to the ground while the ones behind the fixed ones are shortened and those in front of the fixed ones are lengthened. Moving segments are raised slightly above the fixed ones--it looks as if the snake is walking on its ribs, although it is not. Gray (1968) and Gans (1974) give good descriptions." (Vogel 2003:488-489)
About the inspiring organism
Med_800pxboa_constrictor_constrictor_guyana Boa Constrictor
Boa constrictor LINNAEUS 1758
Common name: Abgott schlange

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: TIGR Reptile Database
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_NE IUCN Red List Status: Not Evaluated

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: New types of trailers or vehicles for desert transport that function without tires, which are easily prone to punctures or other damage; cylindrical robots that move easily across sand, possibly to detect land mines or search for groundwater sources. Pipe-cleaning mechanisms for oil pipelines, sewage pipes.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Transportation, robotics

Vogel S. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 580 p.
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