The Sidewinder Snake Slithers at 18 MPH

The Sidewinder Snake Slithers at 18 MPH


NARRATOR: This snake
can travel at speeds of up to 18 miles per hour. This is the Peringuey’s adder,
also called the sidewinder. Sidewinding is the
equivalent of the horse’s gallop in the snake world. It’s the fastest
way to get around. And speed aside, it’s also
the best way for a snake to cross loose, shifting sand. In sidewinding, only two parts
of the snake are on the ground simultaneously. With the head and tail
firmly anchoring the snake, it throws its body
forward in a loop. When that lands, the
head is thrust forward. As soon as that lands, the
tail is brought up, and so on. This movement creates grip,
much like a foot pushing down, allowing the snake to move
forward without sliding, even on shifting sand. Sidewinding is also a
necessary heat-coping behavior in the scorched desert. It reduces the body’s
contact with the hot sand. But the sidewinder doesn’t use
this speed to chase down prey. The lizards are way
too quick for that. Instead, they find an area
with good lizard activity, often near grass tussocks,
where the lizards seek shade. Starting at the tail,
and working its way towards the head, the sidewinder
wiggles its body into the sand. With only its eyes above
the sand and the desert wind blowing all traces of
its burial site away, the adder waits,
its potent venom ready to do the hard work. A shovel-snouted lizard
is also on the hunt. He stops to pick up
a bug, big mistake. In this scorched desert, the
lizard is not just a meal, but an important
source of water too. He retreats into the
cool sand to digest.

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