Sidewinder snakes show roboticists a trick for climbing treacherous sand
Sidewinder rattlesnakes wriggling up sand dunes turn out to have a trick of adjusting their curvy moves that’s improving robot design and the understanding of legless motion on sand.
In lab tests on sandy inclines, Crotalus cerastes snakes easily outslithered 13 other kinds of pit vipers and a robotic snake, says physicist Daniel Goldman of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
As a sidewinder slithers upward on increasingly steep slopes, it doesn’t press deeper and deeper as might be expected. Instead, sidewinders minimize their risk of slipping by increasing the proportion of their body in contact with the sandy surface on any particular wriggle, Goldman and his colleagues sayin the Oct. 10 Science. Increasing body contact might take less energy than gouging deeper into the sand, Goldman says.