Science & Tech

Snake discovered that can do 'cartwheels'

Snake discovered that can do 'cartwheels'
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Scientists have discovered a snake that has the ability to do dramatic-looking cartwheels in order to make its escape from dangerous situations.

The small South Asian serpent, known as the dwarf reed snake (Pseudorabdion longiceps), has been observed doing this behaviour in what is a first for any snake, and extremely rare in other animal species.

A new paper detailing the new observation was published in the journal Biotropica where study authors wrote about the bizarre escape mechanism.

The team of researchers behind the paper was led by biologist Evan Quah from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

The paper explained that the team came across a dwarf reed snake as they crossed a mountain road in Malaysia one evening in August 2019.

The snake is typically nocturnal and secretive, hiding away under logs or leaf piles during the daytime. They grow to a maximum of 23cm and are wary of predators such as birds and even other snakes.

When the team approached the snake they found, they observed how it seemed to flip away from them.

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You can see footage of the snake cartwheeling in the video below.


The study explained: “When approached, the snake was startled and throwing the coils of its body into a loop and began rolling to try and escape.

“The snake cartwheeled approximately 1.5 meters (5 feet) in less than 5 seconds down the road. By cartwheeling down an incline, the snake was able to gain speed and rapidly cover more ground.”

They captured the snake before observing and capturing it doing the same motion, determining that it wasn’t simply a one-off.

The team saw how the snake coiled into an S shape before launching the top half of its body into the air. Then, on landing, it rolls itself over with its tail flipping forward.

Quah told Wiley: “My colleagues and I were excited when we successfully captured images that documented cartwheeling behavior in this species.

“We believe that this behavior may be more widespread in other small snake species, especially members of the subfamily Calamariinae, but the lack of records is probably an artifact of the challenges in detecting and observing these secretive species.”

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